Sunday, December 30, 2007

Who is worse?

Today we hit Sea World during our little vacation in Orlando. Brennan was a little tentative for the first couple shows - which included Elmo and dolphins & birds, but the third show we saw - Shamu, he was digging big time. In fact, he made a huge fuss when it was over and we had to leave. Which was also part of the problem. Because it seemed like everyone in the entire state was taking highway 4 East into Orlando when we left the park. And that led to the above, well kinda.

The picture is thanks to A Driver's Journal, but it depicted quite well what happened. All of the sudden, with a little over a mile to go before our exit and traffic at a stand-still of 3 lanes, I saw some nut go screaming by me on the right - the shoulder. That was followed intermittently by a number of cars, probably 30-40 in all, using the shoulder as their private passing lane. I knew it was wrong, so I wouldn't do it. But inside I seethed as each new car cruised by me doing 45mph while I crawled at maybe 5mph. I kinda got out once or twice to attempt to block their path. Once, I actually got honked at, and Bridgette didn't want me out there because she was concerned about getting hit - it wasn't worth it.

So, my question is this - was their breaking the law worse than my anger and feeling like I needed to stop them? I still think they were dead wrong. And I'm still frustrated about it as I sit here and type - they actually had to get back into the lane at the exit when they ran out of shoulder. But, I mean, should I have really gotten that bent out of shape about something that someone else was doing? I know it infringed on me a bit, but it was probably more theoretical infringement than real. I was more offended that they were doing something I wasn't willing to do and getting away with it. When it gets right down to it, I recognize that there remains a huge log in my eye, which gets right back to what I was thinking about earlier in the evening during the whole Believe Shamu show at Sea World. They talked about all of us being family and one world and peace and stuff and also did a tribute to the Armed Forces who protect our right to keep people out of our stuff - keep us safe from the "bad guys." Jesus said we're all sinners, and when we figure that out we can get on with our lives. Although I can intellectually assent to that, I'm kinda stuck not being able to live it out...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Quick Observation - 200

We've been in Orlando for 4 days now and I've quickly come to a realization. Orlando is the kid version of Las Vegas - minus the gambling. Everything here is geared toward tourists - over-sized and colourful. It's crazy. In both of those places you can do so much without spending a dime, but there's so much other stuff that it's tough NOT to spend that money. Anyway, that's my observation. That's my 200th post ever. I'm not very deep and insightful on vacation - at least not on this one. Maybe the new year will change that...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Craziness

It never fails, every time we fly, no matter how much we "plan" out the schedule, we're running around like chicken's with our heads cut off as we get ready to head out of town. Now it's time to see grandma Kathy in Orlando...

The good news is we've arrive safely and I've found a broadband connection I can borrow. The bad news is that I may have to sell my unborn child for a rental car. Who would've thought that it'd be tough to get a rental car in central Florida during bowl week...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Road to 200

I've increased my posting here this week and I've realized it's a catch 22. When I post more, somehow I prime the pump and it's easier to post - I have more ideas and it seems like I'm constantly thinking of things to write about. Whether many people read these or not, I figure it's great preparation for sermons, devotionals and other material I'll write and use in the future. And if nothing else, it keeps me thinking. I've got a small goal of hitting 200 by the end of 2007, so to that end...

I was in worship today, listening to John preach. We're finishing up our Advent series on John 3:16, "...would not be lost but have eternal life" was the final phrase in the verse and it was the the focus of the sermon. John's main point, as I saw it, was that we need to have more of an imagination about what "eternal life" really means. He made a comment about some people not being excited about heaven, simply because they had a weak view of heaven. And I started thinking.

I've gone back and forth about heaven - being excited and not. And I think part of it has to do with how ready I am to be unselfish. Because really, as John was saying, free ice cream and no bedtimes are weak ideas of heaven - no imagination. But, if life on earth and our mission here as Christians has ANYTHING to do with heaven, I've got to think that our highest and most important mission will continue to be service to others and be outward focused. Life here, despite what the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, is not simply enjoying God as if we're some kind of spiritual consumer. Heaven has got to be about serving others - working out what Christ showed us on earth. And if that's the case, I'm thinking that heaven will look like hell to us who are unwilling to set ourselves aside. However, hell will probably still feel like hell because we are unwilling to to serve others...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Not again...

I'm so sick of the terrible decisions made by network executives. There are currently 2 shows on tv I care about, 3 if you include Lost which won't be back for another month still. Bridgette got me into Heroeswhen it first began, and I'm glad I did. This year, with our DVR, I decided that Journeyman, which followed Heroes at 10pm on Monday nights, was worth a chance. I stayed up REAL late to watch it - and I am REALLY glad I did.

I'm not sure if I've watched more than one or two episodes live, sometimes watching them up to a week later - but I've watched every one of them, and I love the series. I'm hooked. So, today I'm scrolling around through my DVR and found a Journeyman episode that I hadn't watched - even though I'd already watched this week's episode. I checked it out, it really was new and it aired on a Wednesday night. I was confused.

Later, I googled Journeyman and found that there was a possibility it would be canceled. Supposedly NBC (Nothing But Crap), hadn't agreed to pick up the back nine of the season. But there was a huge grassroots campaign started to Save Journeyman. I really hope this show returns. With all the crap that's out there - I mean, NBC has been airing ER for centuries and you couldn't PAY me to watch it, and they cancel something new and well-written? It's crazy. I hope it doesn't end up in the same place that so many other good shows like Arrested Development and Firefly did - on the scrap heap. I know it's all about ratings and whether they can sell commercials, but man, you'd think they'd figure out a way to keep the good stuff on and weed out the real crud...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Good Shepherd?

I was just reading John 10 and it's Jesus talking about being the Good Shepherd. Interestingly enough, the chapter continues, referencing Hanukkah, essentially Christmastime, which gives us a very different image of shepherds than what Jesus is getting at. Usually around this time of year we hear about Shepherds in the fields, getting scared by angels, leaving their sheep and worshipping baby Jesus. Here, Jesus talks about himself as THE Shepherd, the Good Shepherd and juxtaposes his care for his sheep with someone who is simply hired to do so. And it got me thinking...

The most often used image of a pastor is a shepherd. The pastor shepherds his or her "flock" or congregation. But unlike Jesus - we're paid to do it. And what does Jesus say about the hired hand?

"[He'll] run when he sees a wolf coming. He will leave the sheep because they aren't his and he isn't their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he is merely hired and has no real concern for the sheep."

So, what can this say to us as pastors, as "shepherds"? Is it true, that not being THE Shepherd, being merely "hired hands" or stewards of someone else's flocks makes us less concerned with their care? Do we really run away when things get tough? Do we really simply leave and allow our flock or congregation to scatter, to disintegrate? We do. We do it all the time. Whether it's for a better position with more pay or benefits, a congregation that looks "nicer" or a "better fit" or simply because we're "burnt out" from serving in that context. I think that's a horrible model of Christ's love. Yeah, sometimes we need to "move on" for one reason or another. Sometimes God actually calls us somewhere else, but that doesn't mean we're not left with the responsibility to leave that flock in a better place than when we found it, and seek to provide for them the care they need, so they won't be scattered.

There is definitely something to be said for emulating Christ's shepherd metaphor - but we've got to be careful to do more than live up to the image of a hired hand...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Best White Elephant EVER

I've done a ton of White Elephant gift exchanges over the years. Some of them are fun, some of them are not. Some take awhile, some are done before you know it. I once came away with canned calimari, generic pepto-bismal and a styrofoam cooler. Not exactly a home run. Today, I hit the jackpot. Not only did I get a 6 pack of Starbucks coffee samplers (6 x 2.5 oz = 15oz of coffee!!), I also got a LARGE hand-painted mug that is perfect for the office. I picked 7 out of 19 and NO ONE stole it, except for Bridgette, as part of an elaborate play for her to get this giant candle & candle-holder. I got the candle, she got the coffee & mug and we traded at the end. I don't know if it's Ohio or Liberty, but I heard at least 2-3 people say "I don't like coffee" as they recounted the reasons for not stealing my gift or the Starbucks gift card that was also out there. Whoa. I'm stoked. If I don't get anything else for Christmas, this was a good haul.

Truth be told, I'm finally getting to the point where I'm more excited about the gifts I give other people (Bridgette & Brennan) than what I get myself. And I'm REALLY excited about some of that stuff...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ability or Desire?

Just today, I was confronted with a question that I've thought about before, but this time I started to wonder about it in a slightly different light. First, I've always thought of myself in many ways, as someone who has abilities in a lot of different areas. I've often found myself good at a lot of things, but not particularly great at many - if any. At different times in my life I decided to eliminate some areas of my involvement in order to focus on others, hoping this would not only simplify my life and giving me more time to breath, but also allowing me to get better, dare I say become great, in the remaining areas.

Fast forward to today, where I'm a pastor over a number of different areas which require varying degrees of leadership gifts and talents. As I've been kicking the tires on Bill Hybel's Courageous Leadership, I had some trouble thinking of the areas of leadership that I truly had gifts in and those that I didn't - weren't these titles somewhat arbitrary? Do they fit everyone? And then I had an encounter the other day where I was challenged to have more obvious ownership over some things, and I saw how some people have such intricate systems of administration - obvious evidence of this kind of leadership. And on top of that, I was confronted with the premise in Hybels' book, that leaders make decisions based on values and decisions they've made over time, increasing their abilities to be "right"... and the wheels for me continued to turn - maybe, I'm simply not a details guy. Or is it that I don't want to be a details guy, and so I slack off in this area sometimes and it's a liability because of my desire? Which is it?

The question, for me, strikes at the heart of two things. First, if there is an issue of desire, then I am not making the most of the gifts and talents I have. I am not living up to the potential I possess and dishonoring God in my ministry. Second, if there is an issue of ability, then this goes straight to the heart of where God, presumably, will lead in the future. And six months into my first pastorate is not exactly the right time to be thinking about "the future" - but I admit that it's something I do. Not that I'm looking for anything - I just had a conversation with a family, sharing that I think it's abhorrent for pastors to be like College Football & Basketball coaches (and not that good for them either) with their resumes out and always with an eye for the next gig. But I admit that one of the reasons I'm here at Liberty is the opportunity to learn and prepare, for a call down the road where I may have to answer all the big questions myself.

Anyway, these were the thoughts swimming through my brain just now and I wanted to get them down and out. I desperately want to be a good steward of my gifts and talents, not wasting them but developing them. But the question I find myself asking is whether I actually have some of these gifts or not, and if not, should I be seeking to develop them, or instead, seeking to find people who have these gifts and I can delegate duties to - increasing the ownership of our shared ministry together. If anyone reading this has any insight or personal experience, I'd love to hear...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Simply Tired

A friend of mine once said that you could read something into his spiritual life by his blog entries - no entries in awhile said something. For me, you can definitely read into my busyness by my lack of blog entries. This past week, and weekend in particular was extremely busy. Maybe I'll blog about that tomorrow. Unfortunately, last night was the sleep night from Hades and I'm just too tired. Maybe you can see it in my bloodshot, bagged eyes.
Initially, after staying up later than I should have, I couldn't fall asleep. But when I finally did, I was awoken by Brennan, crying out for Daddy. I then spent nearly 3 hrs "sleeping" on the floor of his bedroom with him, so as not to bring him in our bed and disturb Bridgette. I later found out that our cat was doing a fine job of disturbing her already. Man, I can't imagine how people with insomnia function...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Let's hope that adults still can learn. I'm at an interesting place right now, that goes beyond the "big picture" - new Associate Pastor in the throws of learning the ropes and all - and requires some learning on my part.

With this position at this Church, I have the opportunity in many ways to construct the entire adult education model - nearly from scratch. Depending on where your leadership gifts lie, this could be either very exciting or extremely scary - I think I bounce back and forth regularly. At this point, I'm trying to discover all I can to put in place something that will work - not simply as a system that provides the necessary elements - but something that will work for the church in this place. And the VERY unique situation that Liberty is.

So, while I wrestle with it, I'm trying to do all I can to learn the needs (both real and felt) of the church, map out the pitfalls and mines (OSU football...) and discern where GOD is leading in all of this. Yeah, I probably shouldn't neglect THAT part of it. Which of course is a huge reminder to me. Because, if God does not build the house, the workers labour in vain. And no matter how good a plan looks on paper, if it's not got God behind it, it will NEVER be truly successful...

Monday, December 10, 2007

In Stereo

This is a quick hitter because I've been away for a few days and realize it's been a week since I've posted.

First, I finally experienced XM radio for the first time. This may be better than cable tv. The background is that our car was hit in the parking lot in October by a car dealer who never heard the 4 horn blasts of my wife blared as he backed into us. His insurance paid for a rental - which had XM radio. We happen to live in the largest market in Ohio, the outskirts of Columbus, but at night, there's only 1 AM radio station that you can hear and it's not ESPN. Couple that with the fact that we travel a lot by car and I HATE how station's fade in and out and I think the appeal of Satelite radio (XM or Sirius, or whatever) is huge. Down the road, if it becomes more affordable, I think it's something I'm going to get.

Second, I've been luck enough to take over administrating the New Member class here at Liberty. I wasn't entirely sure about it when I began, but after 2 sessions totaling 37 New Members in 6 months, it's easily been a highlight. What was especially neat about last night, the 4th and final class, was the sharing of Faith Journeys. The class has heard 4-5 of us pastors & leaders share ours already and then they have the opportunity to share their own. We broke the class into 3 groups and went around sharing. On two separate occasions, the person in my group was sharing their journey at the same time as their spouse was sharing their own in the group next to us. You'd catch a couple words here or there of the other one, and it was so neat to see how you got bits and pieces "in stereo."

Certainly, getting to hear people's faith journeys and getting to share my own in a VERY non-threatening environment has been an awesome experience so far at Liberty. I can easily say that it is a foundation for sharing your faith in a less forgiving situation - and probably preparing me for doing that down the road. It is certainly not an excuse or a substitute for sharing the gospel with those who have not heard the good news of Christ, but when you look at it as part of a longer-term process it is great. Now, if I can only figure out the back end of that "longer-term process"...

Monday, December 03, 2007

You know you live in...

Here's the deal. We were heading to the church Saturday to make an Advent wreath. On our way in, driving along a nice, scenic highway, I saw a hummer driving towards us. This is not all that unusual, but as it got closer, I could see something was different. Finally, it got close enough for me to see what the difference was. On the hood of this hummer lay a buck. It looked to be dead. It also looked like it wasn't strapped down. I guess guys in Ohio take their Hummers out into the woods and hunt down deer, drop them on their hoods and parade around town. Since the last time I was in a double-wide, I've never felt so in the presence of a wealthy redneck...