Monday, December 31, 2012

What's In A Date?

I always love new year's. Not because it means everything is new, but I love watching people freak out over a number. Or have we already forgotten about the end of the Mayan calendar...?

But it's funny how people go crazy for the number. We have to count down to midnight, like somehow that second is magical. It's a number we created, and it was midnight an hour ago for my family in the Atlantic Time Zone. Australians are already cooking dinner on Jan. 1st and watching Aussie Rules Football.

Here's my take on it, if you want to be a better person, be a better person. Choose to do things now, not because of a number. I do it too, sitting on the couch at 7:47, I'll take the laundry upstairs at 8:00. Why 8:00, what am I waiting for, something good to be on TV? These numbers were created to help us measure time, instead we use them to lock ourselves in routine, for good or for bad.

So let's start being who God wants us to be now. And if you didn't start your Bible reading plan on January 1, the 4th works as well...

T

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Tomorrow's Christmas and I hope everyone has a good one. But before the big day I have a challenge for you, read the Christmas story.

I know, I've been on a kick lately on getting people to read things for themselves, but this is one of those stories that we have heard and seen retold so many times we have added or taken away things from the story that are so important (no one ever has Simeon and Anna in their Christmas plays).

Matthew 1-2 & Luke 1-2:40. Not even four whole chapters, maybe 5 pages of reading. I bet you'll be surprised what's actually a part of the story and what's not. You may even see parts of the story you've never heard before. They're in there for a reason.

So take some time to read the story. It's such a major part of our lives we will spend the next few days (for some weeks) celebrating this event, wouldn't it be prudent to take 5 minutes to read about why we're celebrating?

T

Monday, December 17, 2012

Blind Spot For Bishops

In my spare time I like to play chess. I'm not very good at it, but it helps me work on two things I know are important in life and help me in my ministry, planning ahead and being strategic in what I do.

What frustrates me most when I play chess is bishops. The pointy headed things that can only move diagonally. They are great pieces if you use them properly, they can move clear across the board for a strike. My problem is I never see them. Mine or my opponents. I rarely use them because I don't think diagonally. I usually get killed by them because I don't see them across the board. In all aspects of the game they are my one true blind spot.

So I can do one of two things with this information. I can ignore it and keep playing, after all it's just for fun, there's no prizes for the winner. Or I can admit it's a problem and intentionally work on it. Before entering a game I can admit my weakness to myself and consciously try to pay attention to it.

In life so often we want to ignore our weaknesses. We want to pretend they are not their, not deal with them, not put in the extra effort to fix them. We'd rather find another way to deal with them, like learning to use your rooks better and forgetting about bishops. But if we act that way we will always have that weakness and never be whole, or in my case, a complete chess player. The best way to improve, as hard as it is and as much work as it will entail, is to work on our weaknesses.

So what weaknesses have you been sweeping under the rug that need to be dealt with? It may be hard now, but in the long run it's the difference between a mediocre player and a Grand Master.

T

Monday, December 10, 2012

Stop Making Things Up!

Lorie and I just got back from vacation, it was a magical time (aren't all vacations?). Everything was great, the food, the experience, the time away, there was only one thing that really bothered us. The people.

And I don't mean that people were everywhere or they treated us badly. They were all nice people. But in our conversations with people and just hearing others talk we noticed something that began to get just comical. When someone doesn't know the answer to a question they just make one up.

I don't know if because we live in the information age we know so much more or can find out so easily that people feel that not knowing something is some sort of horrible crime, but almost all the time through our vacation when someone was asked a question they had an answer, and so often it was wrong. They really didn't know (and you could tell), but they felt the need to give an answer.

"I don't know" is a perfectly good and acceptable answer. If you want an even better answer, try "I don't know, why don't we find out". What a breath of fresh air it would have been to have people say that to us.

Making up an answer helps no one, and trust me, when someone finds our you were wrong and making things up you look way worse than if you said "I don't know".

Proverbs 24:26 ~ Giving an honest answer is a sign of true friendship. (CEV)

T

Monday, December 03, 2012

Foundation Part 2

So last week I ranted a bit about foundations being something unseen. There's also something else I realized in my staring at my house time.

When the storm hits it's too late to work on the foundation.

Too often God is an afterthought. He's nice, but I don't need Him right now, so I won't worry about it right now.

And when the time comes that you suddenly think you need God, it's probably too late to build that foundation of faith that would have seen you through the storm.

When the foundation of my house was built it was made without knowing how many people would live there, what kind of weather was coming, when another earthquake will hit Indiana, so it was built to withstand whatever storms may come before they happened, before we even knew they would happen (if ever).

If you want a faith that is true and can withstand the storms of life, you can't ride along until a storm hits and then start to work on your foundation. Instead, to be healthy and able to stand, work on your foundation now. Ask any of the people in hurricane Sandy, some foundations weren't able to stand the storm and now people are rebuilding in the snow and rain. I bet they'd give anything to have a sunny, calm, 60 degree day to build their foundation.

T

Monday, November 26, 2012

Foundation Part 1

The other day I was working in my backyard and looking at the patio we build this summer and doing my best to secure things down or put them inside for the winter. It got me thinking to another conversation I had earlier in the week with someone about things like Sunday School and Bible Study. They knew of students who were completely unengaged with these things.

The problem is for the things you learn in those places, it's a foundation. If you drive around your neighborhood and look at houses you'll notice very rarely do you see the foundation. It's hidden. It's something built first and everything else is put on top of it.

Too often we have people who want to go out and serve on mission trips, play in the worship team, do the things that are visible. Things they can look back on their life and point to and say "I did that". The problem is without the foundation those things never last. And the foundation is built on the things you probably don't remember. I don't remember every Bible Study I had in high school. But I also don't remember every meal I ate in high school either, but without them I wouldn't be healthy.

Just because you don't see the immediate effects of something doesn't mean it's not there. Foundations are like that, if you are only going for the things of God that are visible, you're missing the foundation faith is built on.

T

Monday, November 19, 2012

So Much To Be Thankful For

This week is Thanksgiving, the time of year we sit and thank God for our families and all He's given to us while we eat copious amounts of food. In a few conversations over the past few weeks, I wonder if we could be even more thankful. Next time you're about to complain about something, find a way to be thankful about it.

I have to park all the way at the end of the parking lot on Black Friday:
  I have a car
  I have working legs and can walk to the door
  I live where I can go to the store and buy something I want &
  I have the money to do it
  I can buy a drink inside, bottled, safe, many flavors and types to choose from
  I have people in my life whom I love so much I want to give them a gift
  I have stores with electricity to shop at night and be heated inside
  I can buy food while I'm shopping, prepared by someone else, I don't have to make it myself, also safe
  I am healthy enough to shop
  I can breathe clean air while shopping
  I have joy, the other people that are unhappy shopping, I don't have to have that attitude

You get the idea. Try it, every time you go to complain, think about what you can be thankful for in the situation. You'll be surprised what you find...

T

Monday, November 12, 2012

No One Does It Alone

Sunday was Veteran's Day and it reminded me of one thing:

No one does it alone.

No war is won alone. No one masters a subject alone. No one builds buildings alone. No one makes movies or music alone. No one find a true sense of who God is alone.

Thank you to all those who fought for our freedom, but thank you to all those who helped me, I couldn't do it alone.

T

Monday, November 05, 2012

Shakespeare & The Bible

"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!"


It is one of the most famous lines of Shakespeare and is often quoted. But here's my problem with it:   What does it mean? Who sad it? Why was it said?   Too often people pick out one line of an entire play and remember it. "To be or not to be", "All the world's a stage", these are lines we hear, we know, but if I was to ask the context most people could not tell me.   And this is what we do to Scripture waaaay too much. We know a single line, a single verse, we have it memorized and we know it backwards and forwards, but we don't know what the line is before or the line after. We don't know where Jesus was when He said the verse we're quoting, who He was talking to or what the main point of His entire conversation was. Many times we don't even know where the verse is to go back and find it to look up what it really means.   There's a danger in taking one line out of the context of the whole conversation, the whole day of events even. If we really want to know what God is saying in His Word, we need to read more and understand more than the single line.   By the way, the line at the beginning, it was used by Marc Anthony. It was also a parody of an earlier line of Brutus, making fun of him but also showing his intelligence, talking to the people about Brutus' murder of Caesar. It was a counterpoint to Brutus' speech and lead into a discussion on politics and right and wrong. When was the last time you heard that line used in context...?   T

Monday, October 29, 2012

Honest In The Little Things

What do you say you will do that you don't deliver on?

Lorie and I were talking about that today (not that she doesn't do what she says, just making that clear...). There are people in our lives who don't do what they say they will. They say what we think we want to hear and that will make us happy, but it really makes us unhappier. And usually it's really little things so people think it will go unnoticed.

Here's an example: I say to Lorie I'll be home at 5:00, but really it will be 5:30.

I say 5:00 because that's the right answer. Work's done at 5:00. It sounds nice to say I will be right home. But in reality I have some traffic to fight, a few things to do before I leave, etc. so I really get home at 5:30.

Now do this every day for a month. What happens? Lorie no longer believes me when I say I will be home.

And that will soon bleed over into other things I say. Will I be honest about other times I give her? Will I be honest with other numbers like money? And it blossoms into me not being trusted.

Jesus all the time talked about being responsible in the little things means being blessed with bigger things. I think it works with honesty too. If we fudge a few little things, eventually it leads to a lack of trust. But if we are honest in every little thing we say, even when it isn't the answer someone wants to hear, chances are they will whole-heartedly believe us in the big things.

What little things do we need to be a little more honest about...?

T

Monday, October 22, 2012

What's More Important?

A few weeks ago Apple released it's IOS6 for iPhone with all sorts of new bells and whistles and looking all pretty, and included a new app they designed called "Maps" (to replace Google Maps which was standard before). They made their own GPS app. Great. Except it flopped. It was full of bugs and errors. And as soon as that happened, they gave this announcement from CEO Tom Cook:

"While were improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app.


Everything we do at Apple is aimed at making our products the best in the world. We know that you expect that from us, and we will keep working non-stop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard."

And they followed through, if you go to their apps app the first thing you land on are alternate gps/map apps. Their competition. There's only one reason a company would do this.

Their goal is to get you where you need to go, not make money.

For Apple it was more important their users made it safely to their destination than to use their product. In church, it should be the same. My goal is to get people to know Jesus. Better than they did before. If they come to NewSong, the worship service I'm involved in. Great. If they are going to anther service. Great. My goal isn't to get people to worship my way, use my worship app as it were, but to have people worship and grow closer to Jesus.

When it comes to sharing your faith, how important is it that people know Jesus, even if that means they don't worship the same way or at the same place you do?

T

Monday, October 15, 2012

Doing As Learning

A few weeks ago I read an article about music production and someone made a fascinating point. When it comes to learning something, say piano lessons, do we have people read all the books about how to play the piano, pass a test, fill their heads with knowledge before letting them touch a piano? Or do people learn to play the piano by actually doing and mixing in the knowledge as we learn?

I still remember my first piano lesson when I was five (kind of). I learned to play three whole notes. Three. I learned to read them and transfer that knowledge to finger movement on the keys. I played the three notes I learned to read.

What would piano lessons have looked like if I had to know how to read all music before touching a piano and making a sound? Understand music theory? The science of waves and sound and mechanics of tuning a piano? I probably would never have played...

I learned music by mixing doing and head-knowledge. And I think we need to do more of this in faith. In talking to some people it's like they are waiting to serve. When I know this much Bible I will teach a Sunday School class or when I feel this holy I will be a greeter. In reality, wouldn't learning to live as a disciple of Christ look more like piano lessons, a mix of learning and doing? After all, isn't that how Christ did it? He called fishermen, not religious scholars. And they learned about the kingdom of God while being the hands and feet of God.

If you want more from your spiritual life, dive in!

T

Monday, October 08, 2012

Waiting For Holiness

In my reading last week I came across a curious piece of history involving baptism...

It seems that around 400 AD baptism was hitting a height like never before. It was really important to people's faith. So important that many believed that you were not forgiven of your sins until you were baptized, it was the most important thing you could do in your faith.

That seems all well and good, except it caused an unexpected backlash. If you knew there was a single action you could do that would forgive your sins and you could only do it once, when would you do it? It seems the Roman people of the time decided the best thing to do was to wait for baptism. After all, what if you sin after it? You can't be baptized again so what many people would do is hold off on baptism, hold off on declaring their faith in Christ, hold off on forgiveness and living as true Christians and wait until their deathbeds to be baptized. It became such a big deal there was a division in the church, these people who were followers of Christ but waiting for baptism would be considered Christians, but not part of "the faithful".

This whole piece of history got me to wondering about how those people felt, half-Christians as it were. Do you think they still served as faithful and as much as other Christians? What about in their hearts, did they fell loved by God or a little less loved than "the faithful"? What impact did that have on them sharing their faith?

And the biggie, do we still do this today? Maybe not in the evidence of baptism, but do we hold back from doing things for God because we haven't arrived at some far off spiritual point yet? Do we not serve, give, love as much because we're not what we consider "the faithful"? What are we waiting for?

More on this next week...

T

Monday, October 01, 2012

Many Hands Make A Difference

Yesterday we did something that has never happened in my entire time at Fishers UMC and Fire & Water.

We unloaded the pumpkin truck in under 2 hours.

That may not seem like much, but after ten years and being the one in the truck, trust me, that's a big deal. We unloaded 2000 pumpkins in under 2 hours.

How? We had help.

Sunday afternoon (when the truck was here) we logged almost 100 volunteer hours. There were over 50 people helping unload the pumpkins. The most we've ever had by a long shot.

Sometimes we look at something as insurmountable because we forget that if everyone did a little it would get taken care of. We look at the task at hand as too big and think "how could we ever solve this?" and do nothing. We don't even do our part, we do nothing.

Our church is looking to raise $150,000 this month. Some people will look at that and go "it's too big" and shut down. The funny part is we have over 3500 people in our church database. If each person gave $50 we'd be above our goal.

The problem is we can't get everyone to do their little part. So other's pick up the slack. Then more drop out because the slack is now too much. And suddenly, we're at insurmountable again.

Think of any problem, and add in all the people who could/should be a part. If everyone did their part, how much work would there be?

It's kind of like a few years ago when I was talking to someone about how to get more people to visit our church. And I told them I could get our church to double in size overnight. How? Everybody invite one friend.

No problem is too big if everyone chips in...

T

Monday, September 24, 2012

Do You Really Know?

For the past few weeks we've been doing a little something at Drink Deep (our sr. high program) called "Google What You Believe". It's the idea of discovering what is true by looking it up for yourself in the Bible. There are verses all over the room about a certain topic and students look up the verses and try to figure out what those verses have to do with a certain topic.

Last week there were verses about Christ's life, His death and resurrection. And in our discussion at the end I asked a question I really hadn't planned on. Everyone knows the Easter story but before that night, who had actually read the story for themselves? Maybe 30% of students there...

It got me thinking, as in really thinking hard, do most people who call themselves disciples of Christ even know what or who they are following? Do we take what the pastor says on Sunday as good enough to learn about our loving God and that's it? How can anyone really know who God is and about His love if the only knowledge they have of His love is through a holy game of telephone (remember that game? Someone starts with a message, you relay through about 10 people and then see what it turns into at the end, usually nothing like what it started like)?

The question on my mind is do people really know who Christ is? Do they know what happened? What He taught? How He died? How He rose again? What's important to Him, especially if they aren't taking the time to read those things for themselves but instead living with just the abbreviated version I heard last Easter?

I would hope we take the time to read things in the Bible for ourselves, to see if what we believe is really true or something we picked up playing telephone...

T

Monday, September 17, 2012

Knowledge Unearned

A few weeks ago we talked about wisdom in our morning worship gatherings at Fishers UMC. And it sparked some conversations I had outside of Sunday morning, which got me to thinking a little more about where we are as a society.

It seems we have a lot of people lacking in wisdom. I always heard the definition of knowledge and wisdom and knowledge having the information and wisdom knowing how to use that information. With all of our advances in technology we know have limitless knowledge. Google has changed our lives forever, we don't have to end conversations with "I don't know" and more. We can look it up and learn. So if we have all this knowledge, why does it seem like wisdom has gone down instead of up like our knowledge?

All I can think of is this. It's unearned knowledge. Before, if I wanted to know something, I had to seek it out. I had to look it up. I had to go to the library and research. I had to earn that knowledge, I had to work for it. Now, I hit a couple buttons, wait impatiently for a few seconds and Bam, I have the knowledge. I didn't earn it. Do you notice how people treat things they have had to work to earn differently than those given?

To have true wisdom in our current state we have to make a shift. Before wisdom came as a by-product of the work for the knowledge. Now we have to be more intentional on using that knowledge wisely. For a good story to get you thinking on this, read I Kings chapter 3. It was knowledge and wisdom given, and how it was used.

Let's seek to be wise with the knowledge given to us.

T

Monday, September 10, 2012

There's A Difference Between Returning To Your Roots And Returning To Your Past

What a long title. Anyway...

I've been reading Onward by Howard Schultz. Great book. Talking a lot about the changes Starbucks made a few years ago, the thought behind them and what it took to implement them. And in this book I've noticed a theme. There is a difference between your roots and your past.

Your roots are the history that defines you. What made you into you. The things that are important in your history. Your past is what you've done. Sometimes those intersect but many times we end up fighting for our past and forgetting the roots of why we did it.

For example, say your family has the roots of a family Christmas bonding time, decorating the tree. And every year you've made a string of popcorn to go on the tree, but now you have a child who is allergic to popcorn. Some people would still fight to put popcorn on their tree, thinking that is their roots. It's not. The family bonding time over decorating the tree is your roots, and by keeping something you've done in the past you are actually losing the roots behind it. "We'll decorate while you sit over there away from the tree..."

Sometimes we have to put away the past to keep our roots, and that can be especially hard if the two get clouded together. So when it comes to your faith, what is important to you? What are your roots? And what things in your past are you holding on to that are actually stopping you from returning to your tree roots in Christ?

Plant your roots in Christ and let him be the foundation for your life. (Colossians 2:7a, CEV)

T

Monday, September 03, 2012

Self-Evaluation

Every once in a while a theme seems to prop up in my life. This week it's been self-evaluation. I was asked to write an article of things I learned in ministry, I have a review with my pastor next week, I talked with a youth pastor new to the area and we talked about why we do what we do and starting next week we're going to be doing a series at Drink Deep in which people will have to do a little evaluation of what they believe and why.

It's funny how so often we are scared of self-evaluation. We might see something we don't like. It's hard. We have to be honest when we've been holding up a mask for so long. But I've learned something watching those "Kitchen Impossible" and "Hotel Impossible" type shows; people who don't evaluate what they're doing very slowly lose their standards, forget their goals, and eventually end up in a hole that seems impossible to dig out of. If a hotel would have evaluated it's books and been honest with themselves when they started losing a few hundred dollars, they probably wouldn't have ended up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

So don't be scared, take a shot at it. Evaluate how you;re doing, in your faith, your work, your family. The only person you have to answer to is you. But be careful, you might find yourself challenged to do something with what you learned...

Good luck.

T

Monday, August 27, 2012

Job

This weekend I started reading the book of Job. It's a different translation so it's fun to read the little differences.

But here's where it gets weird. I am reading another book that talks about why God allows bad things to happen. Then last week I was asked to speak at HSE at Cru about why God allows bad things to happen.

I really hope this isn't God hinting at something coming up...

But if it were you, and you were asked why God allows bad things to happen, what would you say?

T

Monday, August 20, 2012

How's Your Level?

My wife came up the wonderful idea of building a patio in the back of our house with individual pavers. You cannot know how much joy this has brought me trying to make sure that every single brick, all tumbled so they are imperfect to begin with, fit perfectly together and make a flat, level surface for us to stand on. To do so, for every single brick we lay we have to make sure it is level. We have a nice little level that we use for the job, and without it I'd be dead in the water.

It has amazed me how often I think I have a brick perfect, and it's completely off. The problem is my view is completely narrowed, I'm on my knees staring at one brick, I can't see the whole picture, so in my mind that brick is perfect. But when I put the level on it, not even close. I thought this may happen once in a while, but it's more like 75% of the time.

That's what the level is for. Without some sort of level, all we're doing is guessing based on the tiny narrow view in front of us. In life, that is what's happening way too often. The story of the rich young ruler who came talking to Jesus comes to mind. He asks what he needs for eternal life and tells Jesus he has done everything in his narrow view of life. I even love how he calls Jesus good, to which Jesus asks, "Why do you call me good?" Jesus knows this young man's view of good is skewed, much like all of ours. He's not balancing it against the level, the ruler, the Scriptures. He's just going by what's in front of him. I hear it all the time, "I'm good, I'm not as bad as-". If I want my bricks to be level, I don't look at the wonkiest, most crooked one and go, "This one is better than that, so it's okay." I get a level and make sure it's as close to perfectly level as possible.

Over the next months at Fire & Water the sr. highs are going to be looking at the Bible, what it means, how to read it, how to use it as a level in our lives, how to make sure that God's Word is real and alive in us. It's the best spiritual level we have, II Timothy 3 tells of all it can do, teaching us what is true, helping us see what's wrong in our lives, and "it straightens us out and helps us do what is right" (II Tim. 3:16b, LB). If you can make it, we hope you can come on out and grow with us.

T

Monday, August 13, 2012

Getting The Message

Every once in a while the things I read seem to line up with exactly what I'm thinking about or with things going on in my life. It seems a little freaky, but I think, "Okay, maybe there's a message here." The scary one now, I'm reading three books and all of them are saying the same thing at this point.

What's even crazier, they are three completely different books. One on little known stories of the life of Walt Disney, one from the ceo of Starbucks and one on the discussion between Peter and Jesus at the Last Supper (which, incidentally is free this week for Kindle, if you don't have a copy you should pick one up here).

I think sometimes when it comes to hearing from God we put so much on it to be this huge spiritual experience. Yes, many times God speaks through times like the footwashing and prayer at the end of our summer mission trip. But many other times God is speaking to us through every day experiences, through the people we talk with, even for some the music that plays over and over in your head (right Dustin?).

So if we want God to speak to us (and He wants to), that means one of two things. We either have to have massively spiritual events all the time, which will eventually seem less and less special because we're doing them so often, or we need to start looking for God in the everyday. Too often we like to separate the spiritual and the rest of the world, but that's not how God is, He's in the spiritual and the everyday, He made the everyday world, didn't He? So why can't He speak to us in it?

Be looking, maybe God is trying to get a message to you...

T

Monday, August 06, 2012

Cognitive Illusion

This is something I was reading about last week. It was a little blurb about the news and how having so much information at our fingertips has changed how we view the world.

In a nutshell, cognitive illusion is the idea that we make assumptions about our world based on what we hear, usually without knowing it. How it applies to the news is because we have so many news stories in our heads all the time from all over the world, we start to believe that what we hear is the case everywhere and it shapes how we view our world.

An example would be child kidnapping. A hundred years ago if a child was kidnapped three states over we would never had heard about it. That news didn't reach us and it didn't apply to us. Now with the internet, amber alerts, etc. if there is a child kidnapping we hear about it instantly, all of them. So because we hear about more child kidnappings we assume that they are on the rise and we begin to act accordingly, kids aren't allowed to cross the road by themselves now. But the reality is child kidnappings lower, they are not nearly as prevalent as we think. Since we hear about it more, we assume there are more, and act accordingly.

And this whole process got me to thinking about faith and what cognitive illusions we've created and how they shape how we act. We talk to three people who believe in Jesus, so we assume everyone believes in Jesus and act accordingly. We hear that two people are serving at a local seniors center, assume lots of people serve and they don't need our help while in reality they have only two volunteers.

So the question I keep asking myself is looking at what I think and how I act for Jesus, is it based on truth or is it based on assumptions I've made about the world around me from isolated stories...?

T

Monday, July 30, 2012

Ananias & Sapphira

Last night we told a couple of stories from Acts at Drink Deep and this story seemed to make a big impact. Apparently God smiting people down in the New Testament Church caused a wee bit of a ruckus leading to all sorts of discussion from God's love to the end of America. So today I just wanted to add some things to think about.

First, there was the question of why God doesn't act like this today. Some even wondered if God had changed. I don't think God changed, but we have. Let's just ask if God were to suddenly strike someone dead in church today, would we acknowledge it as God? Would we see it as His call to holiness? Would our people and our leaders turn to God in a way like never before? Probably not, so if it's not going to get across the message God wants, I don't see why He would do it (He's pretty smart, He knows what works best).

But then there was the question of why God would do such an act anyway. People lie to God all the time today, but they don't die for it. I think the big question is where's our level of commitment is at. Anyone who's done any leadership type thing with me hears me say this all the time, the higher up you go, the higher the expectation. This was a church with a high level of expectation, people gave up their lives, their finances, their time, their own personal goals, this was a church that was 100% committed to Jesus Christ and His work, every single person in the church was involved in Christ's work in some way. With that level of commitment, there was a high level of expectation. In today's church, do we have that commitment? Even anywhere close? So then why are we surprised there's also not that level of expectation? You can't expect and enforce a lot from people that have low commitment.

Likewise, I'm not one that thinks we should need a sign from God to do what is right. If you say you're going to do something, you shouldn't need a punishment to convince you to act. I'm not saying I'm perfect at it, but it's one of those levels of expectation I try to put on myself. If I should do it, I should do it.

The main point of the stories yesterday was the commonality of hospitality; whenever the opportunity arose the people of Christ gave everything for others. In the story of Lydia the Holy Spirit overwhelmed her with hospitality and she supported an entire church herself (at least at the beginning). As we talk about this again next week at Drink Deep take a look at the stories in Acts and how people welcome new members of the Church, or even how new members treated the people that had just showed them the truth. Go back to the idea of us living up to a higher expectation without needing to be forced, where are we at?

Sorry this was longer than normal, still nothing compared to our discussion(s) last night. If you haven't been involved, it may be something to try!

T

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Value Of A Hard Week

This mission trip for me was a little unlike many before. Let’s compare it to last year, it was a split site, which means everyone gets a chance to both build/do repair work for two days and they spend two days working with children at the one kids club. We also had great staff and got along really well with the other churches. Since we all built something, we could all point to something and say “we did that”, a sense of accomplishment. If I told a story about a child at kids club, every single other person on the team knew who I was talking about, we all shared the same experiences. Friday night was really uplifting and happy as we shared stories about this great trip.

Three days ago our Friday night was a little different. People still had some great stories, but our mission trip was much different. Many students did not connect with the YouthWorks staff, one of the other churches caused problems, we were at one worksite all week (and some sites were not a fan of YouthWorks) and generally when we were there we were split up. For example, I was put in a class of older children at a summer school/summer camp program. I did not see anyone else from our mission trip for six hours a day. Our students had a really hard time, there was not the sense of accomplishment from last year, either you didn’t make a good relationship with the people you worked with and felt unfulfilled or you did make a good relationship but by the time that happened it was time to go home. All in all, our students were really having a hard time.

So Friday night I asked who thought this was a hard trip. Almost every single hand was in the air. For the reasons above, people were not as happy as they were last year. But it really opened the door to talk about it. From talking with a few students their natural reaction was to still say the trip was okay and leave it at that, instead we chose to be honest about it and talk about how hard it was. Because in reality, the hard trip was much more similar to what it is like to really be a missionary, hard to make relationships, some people didn’t want us there, that unsettling feeling of, “What am I doing here? I’m not accomplishing anything.” And when these students go back to high school or off to college and they view their school as a mission field, they are more likely to have an experience like this year’s mission trip.

The important part is realizing that just because you don’t see fruit doesn’t mean you’re not accomplishing something. If I were to go to a farm in the spring and work for four days then leave upset because I didn’t get to harvest my dinner, the farmer would laugh at me. Real growth takes time. But just because you don’t see the harvest does not mean the watering or the fertilizing was not helping. Just because we don’t see the final product does not mean our work was in vain, and that’s the stance we have to take with this trip and in the mission fields of our lives. Sometimes the harvest takes a little longer, it doesn’t mean you give up or that God doesn’t value your service to Him, it mean we have to work a little longer and a little harder. Unfortunately we don’t get to go back to Minnesota to do that, we hand that off to this weeks youth groups, but we can do it in our lives here. And I think that is the most valuable lesson this mission trip can teach us, to continue to run the race as Paul writes, to keep on doing what we know is right.

Thank you all for your prayers and support last week and be praying for Liz and The FIRE Students as they serve in Kentucky this week (she has a blog on the Fire & Water page too).

T

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Minneapolis Day 5: Friday

Sorry about there being no blog yesterday, it has been a long and exhausting two days, but days that have been great with many highs and exciting stories. Our last day of ministry, saying good-bye to people we've made relationships with, praying for almost 3 hours together, and a day of relaxing at America's biggest mall. Our last few stories are below, thanks for all your support and prayers.

T


Being a senior yesterday was my last day serving with fumc at a youthworks site. It’s a bittersweet moment for me realizing that I’m leaving behind so many memories and that I will be making many more. I have made so many great relationships with these people and I have learned so much. Although my service here is done I hope and pray that I will be able to find somewhere to serve. God gave me talents and I know I need to put these talents to use for him.
These last 4 years I have been able to work with different forms of kids clubs and it has always been very easy for me to work with kids… Except for this year. The place I served at this week was called, “Hospitality House.” There were at least 100 kids there so it was extremely difficult for me to connect and have one on one relationships with them. The first day we had learned about serving and that everything we do can be considered a service to God. I was so down on myself because I felt like I was making no impact on the kids and I felt like I wasn’t do anything. I learned that although some of the things I did were not tangible and visible, just my presence was a service.
This week I was able to have Brian Craig Gordon be one of my youthworks leaders and I am truly thankful for him. He taught me that no matter what the situation or who I was serving that I am called to love. I truly did my best to love as hard as I could and that just by showing love in every situation I could hopefully make an impact on somebody. I am thankful for all of the youthworks staff this year, Mike, Holly, Diana, and Brian. They were some of my favorite youthworks staff and even though this was a hard mission trip it was a great one.
-Issac Schaffer

This week, I got the opportunity to serve at a nursing home.  This place, Redeemer’s Residence, was centered around the elderly who were unable to communicate fully or travel throughout the residence fully.
Now at this point, I would like to warn those who are reading this with a meal in hand, or those who are weak in the stomach, but my most prominent story of the week is a little crappy… We (Alec and I) were called to help a resident “get to her room”. Funny story: she was already at her room.. We got there and saw her crying because she was afraid no one was coming to help her. We walked her into her room to help her get into bed, when she decided she needed to use the restroom. To keep the story short, I lost at rock paper scissors, and had to give her a hand. By the time we got her into bed, Alec and I next to ran out of the room.
Now, while this story has a considerable amount of humorous content, it did actually shape Alec and my week, by opening us up to the randomness of the jobs we had to face this week.
-Andy Patterson

Currently my eyes are half open and Andy, Troy, and I are chatting about the week. Coming into this week I was extremely perky and had a vision for the whole week. My worksite for the whole week was a transition shelter for the poor and homeless called “Mary’s Place”. This tiny little building has turned into a three building complex with more than 90 apartments for families. Our main job was to entertain the kids while their parents would work with the staff to find jobs and work on daily life skills.
More than 40% of the people living in this complex are Somali refugees. Most of those kids couldn’t speak English very well.  We had to use a lot of hand gestures for communication. We have also had a lot of kids who know English perfectly well who refuse to understand us. Despite the challenges, I cried my eyes out saying goodbye to these kids. I could spend all night telling my stories with these kids, but I will just say that it was an amazing experience and one of the most challenging weeks of my life. I am grateful that I have the access to all that I have after seeing the excitement in these kids’ eyes over the smallest things that we think little of such as a new shirt or a bottle of bubble liquid.
I am so grateful for the friends that I have made in this youth group and the experiences that we have shared and will share in the future.
-Jacob Stebbe

Friday, July 20, 2012

Minneapolis Day 4: Thursday

It's our last day of serving and we have lots of great stories, but unfortunately we don't have time to share them, it's 12:30 and the last of our students just went to bed after praying. So, we will have more stories up tomorrow, thanks for understanding! T

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Minneapolis Day 4: Wednesday

It's Wednesday, the middle of the week. Students are excited to get back to their sites, they know the routine a little better and they know some of the people they're serving by name. In the evening the weather changed our plans so we stayed indoors for the YouthWorks Olympics (the picture is of Olympic Music Chairs, a much more violent sport than many others in the games) and had a great night in talking, playing together, worshipping, and reflecting on what we are here to do. Thanks again for all your prayers and support!
-T


So today was the third day at my work site which is the best summer school for kids I have ever been to (it is free of charge). Urban Ventures is the name of the summer school and it is in the middle of downtown Minneapolis.  I am paired up with my “buddy” Harrison who is going into the 9th grade.  We have been partnered up for two days and today was much better.  He is one of the most easily distracted kids I know.  However, today was the best he has been.  I was able to help him and his friend Mario with lines of symmetry in math class and then helped him write an essay about himself (also known as a biography).  It helped me connect with him more.  We also enjoyed electives today where we played football, special teams today, and went on a bike ride around beautiful Minneapolis bike trails.  My legs were burning for the rest of the night.  Tomorrow marks the last day of my youth works mission trip career and I have caught myself looking back over the past 7 mission trips.  It has been a great learning experience for me and brought me closer to Christ each trip I have taken. I have a goal tomorrow to complete with my buddy before I leave him for good.  My goal is to complete this goal as a final memory to add to my mission trip collage.  My last day will also be spent at the science museum so you should be proud mom.  Thank you all for the prayers in the church community and the support.  We will be home soon to tell you all about our stories of this trip.
-Daniel Ogle


With today being the second to last day, it is crazy to think how fast the time has flown. I have spent this week at Kaleidoscope Kids, which is half day care and half academic growth. It was hard the first couple of days to really connect with all of the children, but today was really the first time I felt like I had an impact on them and felt like I had made connections with them. Today was a normal day in classroom where we spent time reading, painting monsters, and talking about what they think college is like. It was so great to not only hear them talk about their futures, but to have one of the girls stand up in the middle of the lesson and point to me and yell, “She’s going to college! She told me that!” That was able to spark more conversation and have them ask me about what I’m going to do and actually know that I can be an inspiration to them. As we enter our last day at our work sites, I know it will be hard to say goodbye to these kids, especially since I’m just now starting to get to know them. Overall though, with this being my second and final mission trip, I am very happy with the relationships I’ve made and the impact I’ve hopefully made on these children’s lives. It will definitely be an emotional day tomorrow, but I also can’t wait to get home to share more stories with family and friends.
-Lindsay Campbell


Today was my third day working at this amazing transitional home site that also provides every service you can imagine. It’s called Mary’s Place and offers dental care to those who don’t have insurance, medical clinics, laundry, showers, a food bank, mattresses, a soup kitchen, and 90 apartment styled transitional homes for mainly immigrants or other homeless people who came from the gloomiest of situations. For example, 40% of their residents came from Somalian refugee camps.  People literally line up to talk to Mary Joe who writes checks on the spot for those in need if they have genuine needs. She is a god send, and is even referred to as the Mother Theresa of Minnesota. I can’t even wrap my mind around how Mary’s Place gets no type of federal funding whatsoever and completely relies on donations, and over the thirty years its been around has turned into a 3 building facility. Now that you have some background info about Mary’s Place, we can talk more about what I’ve experienced this week so far. Our work crew, Free, has the blessing of playing with the children who come from all types of backgrounds and the majority of which English is not their second language. The language barrier is surprisingly not much of a problem at all.  It’s awesome to see how I can make strong relationships with kids who I can hardly understand. We can communicate and learn about each other just by playing games with them. All they want and need is some one on one attention. This is my first mission trip where I have worked with kids for four days straight, and I can honestly say this has been an amazing experience that has changed the way I view immigrants and the world. These people literally have nothing and yet find joy in everything. For the amount of kids present at Mary’s Place, there are very few to none discipline problems which to me could never happen without God. Most of these kids have never even heard of God’s name yet exemplify what being a Christian is all about. For example, I met a seventh grade, Darell, who would draw the younger kids pictures of whatever they wanted just to put a smile on their face. He told me he had just graduated sixth grade and planned on going to college to take some art classes so he could make lots of money! It’s crazy to me to think that graduating sixth grade is a big deal. I also met Moktar, a 5 year old Somalian boy who had been in America a mere seven weeks. He makes me smile every time I’m around him. You never see Mokatar without a smile on his face, or him dancing, or singing random vowels and I just love to be by his side and partake in whatever shenanigans he wants to get into. Like painting his fingers and toes with nail polish we bought or bombarding me with bubbles (haha). Half the time he has no idea what I’m saying and he normally just answers yes to my questions but that doesn’t matter, we are best friends. I tried to explain to him what Christmas was the first day and now he just calls me Christmas which is adorable. J He’s made such a difference in my life because he’s taught me that there’s no reason to complain, life is a beautiful thing if you make it that way. I can’t put into words what he and the other children mean to me, they have changed my whole perspective about how to live your life. We can overcome anything if we put our mind to it. These kids are an inspiration to me and have taught me so much about myself. I absolutely hate that I have to leave him and all the great relations I’ve built with the other kids. They need a stable role model in their lives and it breaks my heart not knowing where they’re going to end up.
-Kristin Myrick

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Minneapolis Day 3: Tuesday

It's Tuesday, always a fun day because it's the first day we get to go back to our sites and kind of know who the people are! After today's ministry all our students broke up into groups and served at different soup kitchens across the city with a group called Laves And Fishes. But I'll let them tell you the stories, thanks for your support and prayers!
T


Hello World!
Everyday I go to a site called Mary’s Place, which is a shelter for up to 92 homeless families. It’s really special because everything is completely free for the families as long as they can show that the adults are working to get jobs or trying to improve their funds by saving money. The buildings there also have a food pantry, soup kitchen, teen center, children’s center, and a lot of other recreational centers for everyone to do academic work and hang out in. We help in the playroom and the social center with the kids two to around 18 in the mornings and then walk over to the children’s center and work with the three to eight year olds and play with them. It is a blast. Today, in the morning, we played duck-duck-goose and played in the playroom (tag and “zookeeper”). In case you were wondering, zookeeper is when the big kids are zookeepers and have to catch the “animals” (the little kids) and put them in the cages (the rec play area place). One of the kids was having trouble getting along with others without hitting them or calling them names and kept singing some inappropriate songs, but it was super cool to see Amber read storybooks to him for at least 30 minutes straight…. He calmed right down and behaved perfectly when he did that.
In the afternoon we went to the children’s place and colored, played Play-doh, played house, teeter-tottered, played High School Musical DDR on Wii, played Legos, and a bunch of other fun activities. One little five year old, Ching, drew a picture for Jacob Beard. It was really cute. The kids were a lot of fun to play with and are so adorable because you can tell they really love and appreciate the attention.
After the children’s center, we took our showers and headed to the St. Matthew’s Church to serve at a food pantry with our crew, “Free” and some kids from the “Love” crew. It was so so so much fun. I talked to some moms and a little girl who liked my braid a lot. They were all really nice and it was neat to see that soup kitchens are not what they may be stereotyped to be – not everyone is homeless, some people may just need a little bit of help once in awhile. Isaac, Kristin, and I did dishes with the power dishwasher and fancy sink and pretty much got soaked. I rinsed off at least 230 trays of food covered in gravy, turkey, and the whole shebang of Thanksgiving dinner, which they have every Tuesday night. The leader of the kitchen, Mike, was really appreciative and definitely was a person that I admire. He seemed to do everything, from mopping to serving food to talking to the eaters to washing dishes. He was quite a guy – could put his hand flat on a 160 degree F dishwasher without even a jump. Pretty cool.
So, Troy got our small group Flavorices and it was a great day. Can’t wait for tomorrow!
-Natalie Huibregtse


For the past two days I have been teaching children going into the fifth grade math and English skills at a place called Hospitality House. Yes dad, I know that you’re proud. Some of them have trouble writing and reading, but I’m doing my best. There is one kid who is a bit smarter than most. I wanted to help him with factoring his numbers, but he had finished and had gotten them all correct. During the English part I proof read one child’s story about a prince-dragon whose father had died, and went off to seek help form a nameless wizard who would bring the other  one back to life for a certain price that involved killing. It was a little grim for an eleven year-old, but it was a good story. Then I go out in the hall and read with one kid. They all want to come out but there’s only one of me. A lot of them are reading the Goosebumps books, which is neat because I read those too. After that we have lunch and then we play basketball. Right now I’m trying to learn how to double-dutch with jump ropes. It’s so much fun! I cant wait for tomorrow. I don’t want to leave.
-Steven Eastes


Hey There!
As usual, before I left for this trip, I was super excited. And I mean SUPER excited. I really love mission trips, and all the ones I’ve been on so far I’ve done something that I loved doing. But this year my heart sank when I saw what work I would be doing all week. My group (of 3 people) is working at a nursing home. I can build something, I can paint something, I can play with kids, but working with the elderly is completely foreign territory to me.
So at the beginning of the week, I was terrified of my work site. I ran to the daycare inside of the retirement home and spent almost my whole day there. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to understand what any of the residents were saying, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to find anything in common with the residents. But luckily, Andy and I were able to stick together on the second day (since we were both worried about the worksite) and meet some really cool people. We met John, who LOVES to play cards. So we were able to watch him play some cards with a couple of other residents and it was really a fun time! We also met Paulene who was playing cards with John, and we were able to take her to the vegetable garden that the residents keep right outside the building. Later, we met her roommate Virginia and the two were a hilarious couple.
My fears were put to rest and I’ve been having a great time since then (though I am still spending a lot of time in the daycare…), and tomorrow we’re going to play cards with John and another woman who lives at the retirement home. I’m surprised that I’ve already learned a new skill in just the two days that I’ve been here! I know that God put me into this position so that I could learn this and I’m really grateful for the opportunity.
-Alec Balasko

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Minneapolis Day 2: Monday

Well, everyone had their first day of working at ministry sites today! Quickly followed by a trip to the world market, fun for everyone today (I ate weird African food). Below are some stories from our students, enjoy. (And after Kari's blog yesterday, we thought maybe you'd like to see the fun room we're in).
T


Formerly having worked in “Kids’ Club,” starting off with the Kaleidoscope Kids (a summertime education center for 1st through 8th grade, Muslim-based) was quite a bit different from my (our, speaking on behalf of Troy, Lindsay, Brendan, Drake, Adrienne) experience with children. Being at a secularized learning center makes it quite difficult to fulfill the purpose of the “mission,” as our influence is limited to the children identifying us as Christians, little more. Regardless, I can comfortably say the children have definitely began to familiarize themselves with us, despite a hectic first day to the U of M arboretum (a field trip for the kids!)…
-Bobby Herron

This is the first mission trip I’ve done, so I wasn’t sure what to expect on my first day. I was at Mary’s Place, which is a homeless shelter, a place for people to get back on their feet.  Its founder, Mary Jo still works there every day, from its start in the 1980s, and just talks to people, asking what they need.  It is amazing to see the love she has for all the people, and how she is truly a gift to people in need.  She came and prayed with us before we worked and it really puts into perspective everything she does for God, and how He has led her to begin this truly awesome program! The facilities are really nice, and we all couldn’t believe that all their funding comes just from donations.  They give out so much, with their food pantry, just writing checks to people in need, and giving away clothing and personal items.  It is truly a blessing to see what Mary’s Place is doing for people! We worked (me, Kristin, Natalie, Spencer, both Jacobs, Kinna, Mr. Meeks and Mrs. Patterson) with the kids in the playrooms, while their parents talked with advisors and tried to find jobs.  The kids were really great, and they just wanted us to play. While we were getting a tour of the building, some of them followed us and waited for us to go play.  They were so quick to just come up to us and give us hugs! We took them outside and made a slip n slide with a tarp, hose, and dish soap. They were so grateful for just being able to play, and they did everything in their power to get us wet! J after lunch, we went to the kids center and there were several rooms of toys for the kids, and it was great to see that they still get to be kids, despite the hard times their families are going through.  I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings, and I’m so excited to work with the kids and worship God with my service to these awesome children! J
-Amber Kline

Today was absolutely fantastic! My worksite was not nearly as labor oriented as most of the sites that I have worked at, in previous years I have worked painting or cleaning or building (Troy likes that for me, because physical labor isn’t my strong suit). This week I am working at a site called Urban Ventures that does outreach to all sorts of people. My group works specifically at the Colin Powell Youth Leadership Center, which hosts the Learning Lab program for 1-8th graders. The facility and PRAISE GOD!! Has fantastic air conditioning. We started the day with a brief orientation that was very uplifting and highlighted how truly wonderful this program is. The kids at Urban Venture come from the Phillips neighborhood which hosts the highest level of crime and gang violence in the state. The kids are no strangers to gun shots or all night partying and often don’t sleep. The Urban Venture program gives them a healthy environment to play and work in and also provides a great learning environment for these children. Many of them are academically behind (the whole experience throws into sharp relief how blessed we are to go to school in Hamilton Southeastern Schools). The volunteers in the program facilitate by working with a child or children that are our buddies. My buddy is Kevin, and he was given to me because he is “problem child” and needs special attention. I focused on Kevin today and we did everything together. Including but not limited to, playing Twister and Apples to Apples, and doing a skit (yeah God really threw me a Home Run this week!!)  Kevin was never a problem the whole day, he is really a sweet little dude who wants to achieve the best and I hear that’s because he has a great mom. He is great and I hope to make a difference in his life this week, because he has already made a difference in mine. Please keep Kevin in your prayers that he can keep focusing this week and be as successful as possible.
-Dustin Meeks

Monday, July 16, 2012

Minneapolis Day 1: Sunday

Hey everyone, sorry for the delay. Thanks so much for all your prayers and support, we made it safely (and early) to Minneapolis, here are some pictures and stories of our day. Hope to share more soon!
T


Today as the group took an adventure, we stopped at a local Burger King to get a quick bite to eat.  While in the Burger King the four freshman girls (Adrienne, Kinna, Kendall, and Kate) collected a plentiful crop of red straws. We collected the straws so that when a certain young lady we might be rooming with begins to snore we can pop them so the noise will wake them up enough to halt the obnoxious snoring.  Minnesota is a beautiful state and we enjoyed the ride here because of all of the rolling hills and leafy trees.  We are all looking forward to beginning an amazing week with the locals and YouthWorks staff.  We are determined to win in a game of cards against Thomas a.k.a the master of cards. At least in Minnesota.
-Makinna Laymon


This morning at 2:45a.m., six of us (Chris, Andy, Landon, Kari, Dustin, and I) took a trip to Steak n’ Shake for shakes.  After our adventure we went to the church at 4 a.m. to wait for everyone else to show up.  While at church the boys played Frisbee but Kari was convinced the police would come so we drove around for an hour. Oh Kari…
After leaving the church I embarked on my first Senior High Mission trip along with Kendall, Makinna, and Kate.  My time spent here so far has been an amazing experience, but has also been an enormous change from Junior High.  I hope to spread the word of the Lord and make relationships with those in the Minneapolis area.
-Adrienne Meeks


Hello there. We are here! After a day of travelling, we have safely arrived to our destination, Minneapolis, MN.  For many of us, the car ride always seems to be a memorable part of the entire mission trip experience.  This year was no different.  In my van, we enjoyed the expanse of the Chicago skyline, took the occasional nap, and sang some improv music for the lovely adult leaders in our van, Judge Henke and Mrs. Patterson. 
We are staying at the Elim Baptist Church, and this building is absolutely wonderful.  There is a gymnasium for us to play basketball and other games, a spacious club area for nightly worship, and my favorite room of all, the dining room.  This is NOT your typical dining room.  The whimsical walls are filled with vibrant murals, and I feel like I am in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory (despite the lack of a chocolate river, but that’s ok).
Tomorrow begins our first day at the worksites, and we are filled with hope for this opportunity.  Tonight during church time, we discussed our goal to encourage each other and to challenge ourselves to reach outside of our comfort zones.   Additionally, we are excited to embark on this experience with an open mind as God works in our lives. 
- Kari Lorentson

Saturday, July 14, 2012

"You Are Here" mission trip leaves tomorrow!

We'll be doing our best to post stories here and snipits to Facebook. Follow our trip and pray for us! T

Monday, July 09, 2012

Trapped By Memories

One of the things I hate about my little mind is that I remember some of the stupidest things from long ago. Decades ago. Sometimes they're good memories, but sometimes it's a memory of something I've done wrong or messed up or someone that's hurt me and it kind of boxes me in. Even though it shouldn't that memory determines how I will act in a situation.

During the Cold War there was an elecrtic fence on the German/Czeck border. Obvioulsy it was a political thing, it was meant to keep people on their own side. But it affected some other animals, like the red deer. They weren't able to travel their normal routes, they would be shocked if they did. So they adapted and changed.

But here's the funny thing. That fence came down in 1989 and still, today, the red deer won't cross the political border we created. Even though all the deer that would have remember that fence are gone, their great-great-granddeer won't travel where that fence used to be, the memory of the pain is still with them.

I hope in all the memories that we hold on to, the ones that bind us are the ones we let go of, and the one that frees us, we cling to...

Ephesians 1:7 ~ Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! (MSG)

T

Monday, July 02, 2012

Legacy

The last little bit I've been reading I Chronicles. Now, many times it's a skim read, so-and-so begat so-and-so who knew so-and-so who was neighbors with so-and-so, etc., etc. But this time I've been slowing down a little and reading the names. Many of them I recognize from different stories or other readings, and it got me to thinking how little we know of where we come from.

A few years ago they tried to sell me a book of the Richards family history. I didn't bite because there's so many Richards and the name slowly appears about 800 years ago, but in many ways I wish I could tell you exactly where I came from. That was the cool part of I Chronicles. It's been hundreds of years and these people can still trace their families back to the origin of their people, all the way back to Abraham (and in Genesis back to Adam). I Chr. 9:14 even tells who the church custodian was (temple custodian in this case).

So where do you come from (and is it important to you)? Sometimes it's cool to look back at where your roots come from, and I don't mean just history. Looking at the line of my music teachers, my Sunday School teachers and who taught them, things like that. If you're ordained in the Methodist church they can trace your ordination back to it's founder John Wesley. The real question is how did I get to here? Because many times that helps determine where to go next...

My little musings...

T

Monday, June 25, 2012

More Or Less?

My mother posted this quote the other day that got me thinking...

We have bigger houses but smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; We have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgement; more experts, but more problems; more medicines, but less healthiness; We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbour. We built more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication; We have become long on quantity, but short on quality. These are times of fast foods but slow digestion; Tall man but short character; Steep profits but shallow relationships. It's a time when there is much in the window, but nothing in the room. - Dalai Lama

The question that keeps going in my mind, where does Jesus fit all this? Not to sound cliche, but what would He want for us and what will we do about it?

T




Monday, June 18, 2012

Being A Panda...

First off let me say I love pandas. They're big, their fluffy, they're lovable animals. I've seen the video of the baby panda sneezing and watched the webcam of the panda baby at the National Zoo. But unfortunately...

I am disappointed in pandas.

Here's why. Panda's are carnivores. They are designed to eat meat. Their digestive tract wants small animals inside of it. And whenever you see them, what are they eating? Bamboo.

Panda's have learned to settle. Some believe they eat bamboo because they are bad hunters, some think they were forced from the natural habitat many moons ago and adapted to eat bamboo. Whatever it is, it has ruined them. Because they don't hunt, they don't eat meat. Because they don't eat meat they are unable to hibernate, there's not enough energy in the bamboo. This is also the reason they seem so lazy, they don't have the energy because of their diet. They will even eat meat if it's offered to them, but when left to fend for themselves, they eat grass instead of what they were designed to eat and because of that live a dull, dreary life.

It made me start thinking about our spiritual lives. Are we selling ourselves short when we were designed for so much more? Could it be because of our diet, we've settled like the Panda? A proper diet of thinking right, God's Word, spending time with Him, serving, love, kindness, maybe it's too much, but settling for just enough spiritual food to survive and living a life sitting around all day, that seems like a fair trade.

It all starts with the food we eat, and I hope we're eating what we need to spiritually. Maybe then, we'd be ready and full of energy when God needs us...

T

Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer Vacation

The other night I was lying awake (which happens often) and remembered travelling as a youngster on vacation, and I was thinking about some of the complaints I have heard from students about their travels, so to put things in perspective, here are some tidbits of vacationing a few decades ago.

No cell phones, internet, or in some cases, even phones where we were going. You could not check Facebook. Believe it or not, you went on vacation and didn't talk to your friends. And they survived. And so did you.

We did not have thousands of songs and movies in our pocket, internet in the car, DVD players or anything like that. We had these things called books. Or looking out the window. If you wanted music you brought a pile of your most precious tapes and a walkman with plenty of extra AA batteries. And we used the headpones that came with your tape player. If they broke you couldn't go to Wal-Mart and get new ones, you lived with a broken piece of metal jabbing you in the scalp.

You were able to take 24 pictures throughout your vacation. And you didn't get to see them right away. So after trying to get that perfect shot you would have to wait until after the vacation to get the film developed, pay $20 and wait another week only to find a blurry grey blob and you trying to remember what you took a picture of.

There were no vans with captains chairs. There was a big huge backseat with an imaginary line that divided your area from your sibling's area. Occasionally someone (or their stuff) would cross the line leading to a heated debate and parents demanding silence, to which you would retreat to your music on tape that is sounding a little warbled from dying batteries and a piece of metal jabbing you in the scalp.

There were also no exits every 2 miles. Going to the bathroom was few and far between and meals were either at the only greasy diner we could find or sandwiches someone made the night before that were now warm and mushy, eaten at a picnic table on the side of the road which for some reason had no trees anywhere near it.

So for all you weary travellers this summer who have to endure the suffering of a personal Laz-Y-Boy in an air conditioned vehicle with the world at your fingertips, I have zero sympathy for you. Go enjoy vacation.

T

Monday, June 04, 2012

Follow The Tiny Clues

I have become obsessed with the tiny. It's something in my head lately, how big really doesn't exist. Anything big it really nothing more than a pile of lots of little. A mountain is nothing more than billions of tiny pieces of dirt.

I was watching someone the other day teaching their student about tracking. The ability to follow an animal (or a person) through the woods. And the teacher said something very interesting to me. It's not the big things to look for, it's the tiny things. A bent leaf, broken blades of grass, the tiniest little things that unless you are looking for them you will easily miss.

Maybe in tracking God we need to stop looking for the big and start looking for the small. Instead of wanting God to do some amazing "big" thing that can only be God we start looking for the thousands of tiny clues God gives us every day. After all, God said to the people through the prophet Isaiah, "I would not have told the people of Israel to seek me if I could not be found." (Is. 45;19 NLT).

Where can you find God in the small?

T

Monday, May 28, 2012

From The Heart Is Always Better

The other night I was watching a documentary on a popular band talking about their biggest album ever. The company had asked them to make another album and gave them everything they could possibly need to make it. And I mean everything. They spent 3 months writing and recording this CD and cost the studio over $1 million. It was supposed to be amazing. Except the band was struggling. They weren't getting along. Things in their lives were in chaos. They were about to break up.

After the three months and millions spent on the CD they were about to play their final show (unknown to anyone). But they hadn't played in a while. And it was fun. And they wanted to play more of the music they love. So they did something crazy. After the show they went to the singer's house, went in the basement, and recorded a whole new CD in a week.

Guess which CD the label chose? Guess which CD has become their best selling CD to date? The one from the heart. Money, production, time, none of these match someone sharing from their heart.

When it comes to sharing our faith, to telling someone about Jesus, what do you think people want? You to take them to a church with the coolest light show, a friend who has all the answers, maybe a polished speech to tell people about Jesus? Or do you think they just want to hear from your heart...?

T

Monday, May 21, 2012

Remember Why You Do It

I was reading an article the other day about the rules at Burger King. Many of you know them, they're at most fast food places, no shirt, no shoes, no service. At one particular Burger King a family ordered their food, sat down and started to eat. But a few moments later an employee approached them and asked them to leave, they were breaking the rules. And this employee was correct, someone didn't have shoes on. However, it was the six month old daughter sitting in her chair...

Sometimes we get so bogged down in doing what we've always done we forget why we do it. Sometimes it's good to take a step back and ask, "why am I doing this again?" The answer may surprise you.

T

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Cookbook In The Cupboard

Shortly after Lorie and I were married her mom gave us a gift, one we used last night to make awesome french toast. A cookbook. 800 pages of recipes guaranteed to taste good. We use this book all the time. We've written notes in the book, put little pieces of paper to remember things, all the while using this to get the best possible food for us. The recipes aren't only tasty, they're pretty healthy too (except maybe last night's french toast).

But here's the funny part. When we got the cookbook, we thought we knew all we needed to know. We were cooking awesome meals of frozen chicken and tater tots, what else did we need? So we put the cookbook in a drawer, and left it there for about five years.

After using it last night, I wonder how often we do that to the Word of God. We know enough, we hear what we need to know Sunday, so it sits on a shelf. And we keep living our lives, filling our spirits on frozen chicken and tater tots thinking this is as good as it gets.

But what if it can be better? After all, Jesus said, "Blessed are all who hear the Word of God and put it into practice." (Luke 11:28 LB). I wonder what a blessed life is like? Maybe like our meals have become, with way yummier french toast then I ever thought I could make...

T

Monday, May 07, 2012

Is It Awkward Because We Make It Awkward?

Last week at Drink Deep we were talking about sharing our faith and in our conversations I ended up talking with a student who went to a Christian camp one summer. Not a bad thing, I've done it, Christan camps are nice. But he said something that stuck out to me. At this camp they wanted students to be able to talk about their faith. Also not a bad idea. So they took the students to a soccer field, spread them out, and had them stand there while adults randomly walked around and asked them to defend what they believe. Bad idea...

Really? Someone thought this was the best way to have children learn to share what they believe? Maybe talking about God is awkward because we've made it awkward. No one has ever knocked on my door in the middle of dinner (because they knew we'd be home) to try and convince me to cheer for their favorite baseball team. I've never listened to a band because someone stood on a street corner handing out little pieces of paper with the four laws of why I need this band in my life.

What if we shared our faith the same way we shared other things that affect our life? We tell people to try a restaurant because of how much we liked the food. We get excited when talking about our favorite football team. We tell a friend about a sale because we benefited from it and want them to share in that benefit. We invited people to a movie by simply saying, "Hey, want to go see a movie?"

Maybe we're overcomplicating this a little...

T

Monday, April 30, 2012

Perception Affects Change

Spring is here. It's a wonderful time of year, the grass is green, flowers are blooming, and we haven't hit the over-bearing heat of summer yet. It's such a nice time of year.

But Lorie and I have noticed a problem at home with spring. It's incredibly cold. Our house is freezing. Part of that may be me keeping the heat at Canadian temperatures, but we wake up in the morning and it's incredibly cold.

The other day I figured out why. Our heat was set at the same temperature as it was all winter. So in reality, our house is no colder than it has been for the past six months. But winter looks cold. There's snow on the ground, wind blowing, the darkness creeps in so early. And because of this we dress for the cold, heavy sweaters and slippers on our feet snuggled under blankets.

As I write this it's sunny and nice outside. The sky is blue. Birds are chirping. So I am dressed like spring, t-shirt, even wore shorts to bed last night. But the house is still the same temperature as it was in the middle of January.

Instead of dressing for the temperature I've been dressing for how the day looked. I've been basing what I do on what I perceive not where I really am. And in my readings there has been a common thread that when it comes to change this is a problem. We perceive things to be different so we act different. We exercise for six weeks, finally see some progress, so we back off a little, we perceive a change has happened. We faithfully spend time with God, things seem to be better, so we skip a day here or there, I've perceived the change so I don't need to be as diligent. In reality, these little perceptions cause us to change what we should be doing and we slide back to where we started (or even further back).

Sometimes, we need to wear a sweater even if we see the snow melting. Dress for the temperature, not what's outside the window. Do what's right beyond the change we immediately see...

T

Monday, April 23, 2012

People Don't Like Your Smell

Some of you, this is true (I've been on mission trips with you), but I'm not going for the physical smell. Yesterday Pastor Kevin talked about the aroma we give off, our Christ-like fragrance.

II Corinthians 2:14-16 ~ But thank God! He has made us His captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now He uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this? (NLT)

Naturally, I like to gravitate to the nice-smelling, pleasing to God type picture here. But the last few weeks we've been talking at Fire & Water about sharing our faith, our theme for the year of "Everyone Involved, Everyone Inviting". In our discussions we've talked about how a lot of students have friends at school who really want nothing to do with God.

Maybe this verse sheds a little bit of light on that. Perhaps it's not because they don't like us, but we are the smell of death and doom. We're happy, they're depressed, and they don't know why. We feel loved in a way only God can provide, they don't, so we smell. We are forgiven, they carry the weight of their sin, the pain, the guilt, the overwhelming sense of helplessness. Maybe the world's hatred has nothing to do with us but with what we have and they're jealous of it.

If only someone would explain this is a free gift and help them understand they could have the all-encompassing love of a Holy Father too...

T

Monday, April 16, 2012

One-Sided Relationships

Last night at Drink Deep we talked about how Americans really don't like making friends. It's something we're just not good at. I've been wondering to myself if TV has ruined our ability to have real relationships.

Here's what I mean. You can watch a television series and get to know a character, their likes, their dislikes, their favorite food, what they do when they're stressed out, you can get to know them really well. So well you've formed a bond with them. When they hurt, you hurt. When something great happens to them, you celebrate (I always think of Friends, when the characters would have ups and downs, how people related with them). In essence you have formed a relationship with that person.

But it is completely one-sided. They know nothing about you. You have zero involvement in their life. To them you don't exist. And I almost think we like it that way. We get the feigned intimacy of knowing someone really well without having to put in anything ourselves. No risk. Even today with Facebook, you can not actually talk to or see someone for a decade and know what's going on in their lives, and you've put nothing into that relationship.

Real relationships are harder. Real relationships take work. One of our core values at FIRE & WATER is Allying, the idea that we need real relationships that are so strong they aren't viewed as a once in a while friendship, you would actually call this person an ally. But to have a relationship that deep, that impactful, that strong, it can't be one-sided. It takes work. It takes time. It takes commitment. We just have to decide if the effort is worth the pay off.

Are real relationships worth the time and effort to you?

T

Monday, April 09, 2012

An Easter Question

This has been on my mind for a while. If you have an answer I'd love to hear it...

Why did Jesus teach first, then go through the crucifixion and resurrection?

Why didn't He do it the other way around? Think about it, if Jesus rose from the dead then taught us how to live, wouldn't people be all over it? If He got a crowd by doing a few miracles, what if people saw Him die and rise again? Wouldn't that be instant followers?

Maybe those aren't the followers Christ is looking for, He wants those who choose to do what's right when there aren't signs and wonders.

Maybe people would be so in awe of the resurrection they wouldn't listen to the teaching.

Maybe I should shut up and accept that God knows what He's doing...

Just something in my head lately, especially with having just celebrated Easter.

T

Monday, April 02, 2012

The Power of Words

I heard a story the other day, I had to check it out and see if it was true. It was...

On December 19, 1973, the Tonight Show aired as usual with Johnny Carson performing his evening monologue. Earlier a Wisconsin congressman had announced that the government was falling behind on making bids to get toilet paper. So Carson made a joke about it, saying toilet paper was disappearing from shelves, that there was a shortage of toilet paper in America.

It wasn't true, there was tons of it, but it was a poorly timed joke. The country was in the midst of other shortages, oil for instance. So when the 20 million viewers heard there was a shortage of toilet paper they ran out and bought as much as they could. They created a panic. And they created a shortage on toilet paper. For the next few nights Carson tried to explain it was a joke. Toilet paper companies showed videos of the plants making toilet paper. But all people saw when they went to the store were empty shelves where the toilet paper should be. They had created their own shortage. It took almost a month for the stores to be resupplied consistently and end this "toilet paper shortage".

The fact is the people created their own panic. And how often do we do that? We hear something and blow it out of proportion, we create our own panic. Maybe it's not toilet paper, but something at work, in a relationship maybe. It's kind of like the comic I saw as a kid, ten people told a girl her hair looked nice, one made a snide comment, and she goes home saying "everyone hated it". I've seen it happen. What we say, even in jest, has the power to change our world. Even if it's in toilet paper consumption.

T

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Little Bit More...

This past weekend I was trapped in a FedEx office for a few minutes, waiting for someone making an order, so I did what I normally do and looked around trying to kill time. While there I found a book that talked about the 212 difference.

The concept is pretty simple. It's how a tiny bit more can make all the difference in what we do. The title of the book is based around water. At 211 degrees Fahrenheit, you have hot water. At 212 degrees you have boiling water, you have steam, you have power. That tiny bit makes all the difference. The rest of the book pointed out different times in history where the difference between success and failure was a little more perseverance.

What was really amazing is I witnessed it firsthand later that night. We were at the Indiana State Percussion Finals, the last chance to win it all. Teams performed based on how they places the week before, so we knew in one division the home school was set to win their division. They didn't. Instead they came in third. By 0.125%. In that competition the margin between first and third was 1/8th of a point.

It's got me thinking about my faith and what I do. What if I pushed just a little bit more? What kind of a difference would it make if I read my Bible just a few more minutes a day, prayed a few more minutes, served just a little bit more? What if I applied that thinking to my ministry, to my marriage, even my hobbies? How often have people been on the cusp of success but they slack off or give up?

I don't know, if I had been told before a competition the difference between first and third would have been 0.125%, how much harder would I have practiced? Since I usually don't know that, I guess I'll just have to assume it and work hard all the time...

T