Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tunnel Vision?

Ok, these are somewhat unrelated thoughts, but here goes:

1) Bridgette & Brennan left for the long "weekend." I have a wedding to perform Saturday and duties at Sunday worship, so I was unable to accompany them to HOT-lanta for our college friend's 30th Birthday Bash. Last time they were away, I was looking forward to it - but by the end, I was REALLY missing them. I've been looking forward to this too - it's nice to have a little time to yourself, to do the some of those things that don't seem to fit into your schedule... BUT - more than that, I will & already am missing them. I dropped them off at the airport this morning. I hugged and kissed them, prayed with them, and talked to them when they touched down (I also tracked their flight...) - it's nice to have time to yourself - but I love and miss my family. Simple as that.

2) I've had a few conversations lately and been reflecting a bit on "end-of-life" stuff. As a pastor, it's amazing how much you end up talking about people and their family and friends who are sick/dying/dead. I think it has a bit to do with prayer - how we always seem to be interested in doing it - praying for others, but there's more to it than that. Anyway, I've reflected a bit on my own life - what it will be like when I'm in that place - not my friends or family dying, but me.

Recently, one of my Senior pastors remarked that everyone figures they'll die quickly, in the night or in a car accident - but you have to plan for the long illnesses, etc. I go back and forth about the whole being "scared" of death and all. But when you get right down to it - everyone dies, so you might as well buck up and face the fact. So, when I think about myself, coming down with cancer or something else, some other debilitating disease, I think of two things. The first is that I want to make sure that my family is alright. If it were to happen when I was still relatively young, kids still in school, etc - I'd be sad. I'd be sad that they wouldn't have me at their graduation, wedding, there for their kids - as the crotchety old grandfather who tells stories about going to school, uphill barefoot in 6ft of snow back in Canada...

But I also have a very strong feeling about quality of life and the natural inevitability of death. It comes - no matter who you are, no matter how much money you make, no matter what you do. You're gonna die. If I've got X amount of dollars and I can spend it on treating my disease, getting another 6 months or 6 years - or giving it away to help others... Well, that question comes down to where I am in my life. If I'm young, my kids are young, we're probably talking about trying to get a few more years out. But If I'm older, I'm probably talking about grabbing a dark beer, sitting on the porch, inviting my friends and family over to enjoy the sunset and let ol' death come.

I've waxed eloquently with people before about how I believe our Western culture has devalued life by devaluing death. We're so scared of death - that we ruin our lives running from it. A good death is still something worth celebrating. Not that we should somehow seek it or anything - but I think Jesus seemed to say it best when he said - "those who seek to save their lives will lose them, and those who lose them, for my sake, will gain them." Something like that.

I should end with this disclaimer though - a) I'm not telling anyone how to die. This is just what I'm thinking for myself.
b) I am not, at least not that I know of, in any significant health crisis of my own. Yeah, I need to be a little more active, but I'm fine. These are just thoughts running through my head...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Shot in the Dark

I've been MIA from this blog for about a week now. The reasons are two-fold. First, my family was in town which meant that I had a little less free time for being online, etc. The second is that once I get out of the habit of something, it seems to get harder to get IN to the habit of it again. It's certainly been that way in a number of areas of my life. I've heard it said before that it takes 30 days in a row to creat a habit - or whatever you want to call it. That may be true - I'm not sure I've been able to do ANYTHING 30 days in a row over my entire life, so I'll have to take their word for it. But I can defintely vouch for the fact that it takes significantly less time to get out of a habit. I'd say a day or two. Which makes sense that it's taken me a day or two just thinking about posting to make a post.

But, I'm still stuck as to what to write about. It's almost as if my creative juices get sapped up if I'm not using them. Kinda like a foreign language - "Use it or lose it." So, this is my shot in the dark. Yes, I've got a couple more Elijah posts to write and throw up. Yeah, I could post on my family visiting - fun but not really something I'm reflecting on, or on my Tigers or Bengals, but I'm not there. Better to just throw something up there, see if it sticks and come back - you know, get back into the habit. I'm sure after a day or two, now that I've hit "post" it will get a little easier...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Set on You?

So, I just got this song stuck in my head. It was made popular in the 80's by former Beatles lead guitarist George Harrison, while it was originally performed by James Ray and written by Rudy Clark. It has always fascinated me, the "evolution" of a song - how it resonates with certain people in one form but morphs into another and resonates differently with others. But that's not why I posted this. There is a particular part of the song that got stuck in my head:

Its gonna take time
A whole lot of precious time
Its gonna take patience and time, ummm
To do it, to do it, to do it, to do it, to do it,
To do it right child

I got my mind set on you
I got my mind set on you
I got my mind set on you
I got my mind set on you

So, my question to myself is - What do I have my mind set on? And is it what I should have my mind set on? Or am I getting my priorities mixed up? It's not an easy question - and it's one I don't answer lightly. But I like something about this portion of the song that I think speaks to it - patience and time, to do it right.

Getting your mind set on the right thing - the right thing, isn't something that happens overnight - nothing of significance, especially any change happens overnight. You need to keep at it, working, and allowing for the inevitable pitfalls and slipups that occur - but not succombing to them. On that note, I'm going to get back to some of those first things...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What's all the Hype about?

I joined an ever-growing group this morning. It began a few weeks ago when I realized that with the PS2 I'd been given for Christmas last year (boy, does that make me sound like a kid, or what?) I'd be able to purchase the new Madden game. I also realized that if I was going to purchase it, I probably needed to pre-order it. Alas, I called up the local EB Games just the day before it's release and they informed me that they only had enough stock for their pre-orders. So, I couldn't pre-order with them. BUT - there just happens to be a Game Stop just down the road from the church here on Highway 23. And when I called over there - bingo, they had at least one extra in every system. So, I mosyed on over yesterday afternoon, pre-purchased it, and was informed that the store would be open at 12am for anyone desiring to pick-up their pre-order. Hmmm...

I said, at the time, that I wasn't sure. But that set my mind in motion... "I'm not going to be able to try the game at all Tuesday, during the day and I have a meeting Wednesday night. If I'm pre-ordering it and still not getting to try it until a few days later, what's the point in pre-ordering. So, like hundreds if not thousands of peole across this nation, I hopped in my car at 11:45, drove down to the video-game store, and picked up my copy of Madden 08. I was concerned that there might be an abundance of enthusiasm and maybe a huge line. But when I rolled in, there were but a handful of people waiting outside the store (because of some "policy" about 4 people in at a time). The store could have easily accomodated the entire group inside and more. But I waited patiently for about 60 seconds, walked in, waited in line another 60 seconds or so, produced my receipt from earlier that day, and walked out not 60 seconds later with my - still cold from the shipping box - copy of Madden for PS2.

I got home 20 minutes later, said goodnight to Bridgette and headed downstairs to my old 19" television to see if the game was as good as everyone said. I quickly realized the ENORMOUS difference between the PS3 and the PS2. Everything you see online and in commercials are from these new "next-gen" gaming systems (PS3, XBox 360, Wii). While they've continued to make most games, like Madden, for the older systems (PS2, XBox) they're not putting the same time and energy into these versions, they don't have all the same bells and whistles and they ASSUREDLY do not have the same graphics - how could they? But, after a couple hours of kicking the tires, and only a slight disappointment that my Bengals, after an atrocious 8-8 season had dropped slightly in their overall rating (93-91), I was happy with my purchase. The trick now will be to make sure that I use my time wisely as I play this game over the next few months of the NFL season...

Monday, August 13, 2007

new design

I'm working on a new design for the blog. Maybe it's my addiction with HGTV, the fact that we're in a new house that needs decorating - or just simply the fact that this isn't as functional or as pretty as I'd like. Either way, I'm hoping to debut a new design sometime this week...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Elijah, Part II: Uh... Excuse me

Do you remember the television show "Full House?" Long before it was known as where the Olsen twins got their start, the cutest kid on the show was the middle daughter, Stephanie. She had a particularly funny line that she'd deliver over and over, often when she was kicked out of the room because her bigger sister, DJ (Kirk Cameron's sister in real life) didn't want her hanging out with her friends. The line - "How Rude!"

When I look at what Elijah said later on, I think of the same thing. He's sent on from the ravine, where God provided amazing meals through some unclean birds, to a foreign city where presumably the people would be worshippers of this same pseudo storm-god Baal that Elijah was out to show was really no-god, next to the LORD God. He gets there and meets up with a widow who is gathering sticks to make a fire for one last meal for her and her son before they - well, they pretty much plan to lay down and die. They have a tiny bit of flour left and a tiny bit of oil. Elijah of course, had just asked for some bread - fat chance.

So, now that this widow explains her situation to Elijah, that she's gathering wood to make a fire to bake this little oil and flour into a loaf for her and her son, so that they can eat and die, Elijah comes back with this:

"Don't be afraid. Go hom and do as you have said.
But FIRST make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son." (1 Kings 17:13 NIV, italics mine)

The NERVE! Can't he just let the poor woman alone? Can't he see that she cannot possibly have anything to share with him? She's literally at the end of her rope. She has absolutely nothing left. But Elijah doesn't seem that concerned. Maybe it's because he follows up with this:

"For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.'" (1 Kings 17:14 NIV)

At first glance you have to ask what in the world is he doing - but there's so much more here. There is an opportunity for a foreign woman, poor and destitute, to gain faith in the only true LIVING God. Now, she CAN just go home, make the cake and die, OR she can go home, make some for Elijah and watch a miracle take place - thanks to the LORD. This is of course exactly what she does.

The challenge for me in reading this is asking myself, when someone who is brash comes up to me and makes a comment like this, challenges me on something, or is just simply rude, at what point do I recognize it as an opportunity to grow my faith - to be patient, to listen to the LORD in this? Do I doubt that God will provide? Have I not seen it, time and time in the pages of history and in my own life? Maybe it takes a little something out of the ordinary for me to recognize God working...

Monday, August 06, 2007


Yesterday was my seventh Sunday worshipping at Liberty, fifth since beginning as Associate Pastor, second as an ordained minister and first opportunity to preside over communion. While normally we worship outside in the summer, beneath a great oak tree (or two, I'm horrible about knowing the various species of trees), this Sunday called for rain, so we moved inside the big barn. And what a call it was - it poured throughout the service despite only a light dusting while I drove in to the church in the morning.

It has been slightly over a month since beginning here and I remember very vividly the feeling last week during the service, as I nervously looked to the bulletin to make sure I was ready for the next part of worship. I've always enjoyed worshipping, but leading others is a particularly difficult thing to do - you cannot simply get up there and "worship" yourself - you are there to assist others in worshipping. The balance is tricky.

But there was a point yesterday, as I stood on the stage and looked and listened to Phil, our part-time minister of visitation who was sharing the preaching duties with me while John & Becky are on vacation - it was as we led the congregation through communion - that I realized I felt... comfortable. Not the kind of comfortable where you can kick back your feet and not care, but the kind where you feel like you belong. I recognized it again when I Welcomed the congregation and gave the announcements - still my absolute least favourite thing to do in worship (announcements - welcoming is fun). And then, as I was handed "the count" after the service I felt it again, this time in a slightly different fashion. Someone else recognized that I belonged - enough at least to believe I should be the one "entrusted" with the attendance for the Sunday (a number after brief consideration, I was impressed with - people DO attend church on a rainy summer day!).

Why do I share this? Because it's part of where I'm at right now. I'm not a stiff, formal type of guy, and that feeling of belonging, of being comfortable is important to me, so that I can invite others to worship as well. Worship should never become "old hat" so that when you read Scripture, serve communion, or preach - or even sing, you don't recognize what an awesome thing you're doing - what a priveledge it is to participate - to lead others in worship of our awesome God. There should always be a touch of nerves that hits you as you ascend the stage or pulpit or open the bible... but not so much that it takes you away from what you're doing, that it inhibits you allowing others to worship - and hopefully, I've begun to get there at Liberty.