Thursday, January 31, 2008

THIS is serious, this is not

"This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised." (Gen 17:10)

This is part of today's lectionary reading and it really hit me just now - this was a serious commitment. This whole covenant with God thing, this was HUGE. We can talk all about how grotesque it is to maim ourselves or whatever, but there's something very serious when you start talking about surgery and men's genitalia. We're pretty particular. We're pretty squeamish. So what exactly is God saying when He requires that the descendants of Abraham, those whom God has sworn to bless and protect, to give them a land and to make them a blessing to others, what is being said by demanding this kind of sign? THIS IS SERIOUS.

Here's a mini-revelation: As a man, you could tatoo my forehead, paint my face green or have me walk around in some odd shirt every day of my life, and it still wouldn't be as big as messing with that. Now, I can't speak for men EVERYWHERE, but I'm guessing I'm not too far off on this one. God certainly was trying to make an impression on Abraham and on his descendants. This whole covenant thing, this whole "you are My people - I AM your God" - it's not a recreation sport, it's not a hobby, it's not simply one perspective... This is where it's at. And it's so serious, that eventually it's going to cost God his very life...

THAT is serious. But this is not: I had a dream last night. There were three things that made this dream very interesting and worth me writing about - whether you care to remember or not. First, when I woke up, I was still emotionally concerned, but it took me a few minutes to remember why. Second, it involved falling asleep and waking up, and doing something while I was asleep that I had little to no recollection of. Third, it involved shooting someone, with a shotgun and if you know me that's significant because not only do I not own a shotgun, or any firearm for that matter, I've never fired a gun and I'm not entirely sure I've ever even held a shotgun. With a few hours behind me, I can chuckle, but at the moment, the idea of having shot someone and having no memory of the incident, that's kinda scary. But it was all a dream, so, it's no big deal...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Need More Power!

I haven't posted in a couple days because I attempted to recalibrate the battery on our MacBook. My initial thoughts are that this attempt was unsuccessful. I just powered it back up and I have "2:31" showing on my battery. Now, for some crumby IBM compatible laptop that's 1.5 years old, this might not be bad. But this is an Apple and I should still be in the 3+ hour range. This is just more evidence, if ever it was needed, to show that regularly recalibrating your battery is a good thing. If not, you'll be stuck buying a new battery, and they're not cheap. Oh well...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Back to the Drawing Board

I just got finished with a very interesting session. I had planned a 3 hour Training and Equipping session for Small Group leaders. Interestingly enough, only one leader, someone who began recently but has a long history with small groups - someone who asked if I wanted any HELP - he was the only one that showed up. We talked for 40 minutes or so. That was good. But I realized, especially after talking with someone about the most recent training session (8 people) that occurred a year ago - we're not anywhere near where I though we were. This is going to require a lot more preparation and cultivating than I'd initially thought. I never realized how much cultural change needed to take place in this place for this to thrive. There are people that are hungry to learn, to grow in their faith and to connect, but the pieces haven't been put together quite right yet. That's my job. So, I'm going to go back and figure out how to do my job. If anyone's got suggestions, I'm all ears...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Spiritual Discipline?

No, this isn't a post about the fact that I'm not disciplined. I think that's been documented quite enough. And if I ever seek another call (which would be years down the road at this point) I figure it's best not to put out more evidence that you can't be the Super Pastor some community wants. As it is, Scripture and the world give us enough evidence without me continually adding fuel to the fire.

Anyway, I was thinking and recently writing and prompted to realize something very interesting. In some, but not all instances, I'm a believer that blogging can actually be, and often for me is becoming, a spiritual discipline. I was spurred on by my friend Lars, who encouraged me to just write. And I've realized over the past couple months that as I write, I've been able to write more. That as I look at the world and reflect on God, I've been more able to do that, more aware of God's movement and more aware of how God is calling me to move within that world. Whether or not I'm being conformed to the image of Christ through blogging is a question best left up to theologians more adept than myself. But I can assure you, there is a spark. Whether it translates into something down the road, like a published book, isn't the point. I've already found fodder for sermons and experienced cathartic moments through this blog. And although comments from the dozen or so friends who stop by now and again are appreciated, I'm learning that I'm not writing for you. I'm writing for me, and I'm writing for God, and I'm hoping that's enough.

Of course I realize that I'm not writing at all, but thanks for mentioning it...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Still Finding my Way

It's been over 10 years since I left Canada for college, over 7 years since I was married, over four years since I decided to pursue ordination in the PC(USA), over two years since we added Brennan to our lives and over seven months since I accepted the call to Liberty as Associate Pastor. There have been a whole lot of changes in those years and they keep on coming. One thing I was reminded of last night is that despite the ever-changing rhythms of our lives, we can still find some pretty neat moments. And if we're paying attention, can cherish them, no matter how short they are.

I was home for dinner for about an hour last night before I headed back out to lead a Bible Study of 1 Peter. It was way too short. And yet, in that hour, Brennan was able to help prepare dinner with us for the first time. Better yet, we were able to help Brennan prepare dinner - mini pizzas. When I got back home, Bridgette and I did a little painting, which meant we stayed up way too late. But as we primed the final "feature wall" in our new home, covering up the old Salmon and getting it ready for our lovely Chocolate Brown, it was a reminder of how wonderful our time together can be, and how new each moment can be. I'm still working on finding the right rhythms to this new life, but I'm enjoying the little moments I can find. Last night was special. Of course, it also could have just been the fumes...

Monday, January 21, 2008

"I Have a Dream"

I still remember the chills I got hearing this speech as a 10 year old in Mr. Scarfino's Grade 5 Class @ Tait St. Elementary School. So, while I recuperate, I offer this speech as a reminder, not just of Rev. King, but of the dream that is the Kingdom of God on earth, and pray that it will come soon...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Icky-icky, petuey, petuey

I preach tomorrow, and this week's been really tough. Not only have I been busy and found it difficult to properly prepare the sermon, despite my high hopes earlier in the week, I've come down with a cold that has made me even more tired than I would be normally with Brennan waking up early and all the other stuff of a normal two-year old. Hopefully, I can get a good night sleep tonight and the message God wants to convey to the congregation will be heard. I just need to figure out a way to get out of the way. Sundays, I don't get to call in sick...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

THIS made me cry

I was perusing Google News when I came across the headline "Abortions at 30-year low." Being unabashedly pro-life, from birth through a natural death, which is the only position I can affirm as a Christian, this made me interested. I clicked on the article, read it through and came to this quote:

Despite an increase in the number of women of reproductive age, the actual number of abortions also has dropped in the last 15 years, from a high of 1.6 million in 1990 to 1.3 million in 2000 and 1.2 million in 2005.

Good? Yes, but also horribly, horribly bad. By my second grade math calculations, that translates to more than 20 million children, I'll say it, killed in fifteen years - in this country alone. I've got a two year old and a second on the way. We've seen the ultrasounds, heard the heartbeats, and watched friends mourn the loss of an unborn child. You can't tell me that using words like "fetus" and "terminate" get you off the hook. It just breaks my heart and makes me want to cry, because I've watched the other painful side as well, as friends and family have struggled to conceive a child.

Now, I recognize that sometimes, for absolutely terrible reasons, like serious complications and health risks, choices need to be made, and those are difficult and should be made carefully, prayerfully and with as much information as possible. But those are not what gets us to 20 million.

At the end of the day, all I can do is weep inside. Because this issue isn't about choice and freedom but about responsibility and life, and we as a society, as a human race, long ago gave up being responsible and concerned with life, and decided we'd rather do our own thing...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tagged on Books

Ok,so my "friend" just "tagged" me on some kind of book thing where you respond with favourite books and things. Since this doesn't include "if you don't tag/post/reply your children will be born with cloven hooves down to the fourth generation" or something like that, I'm inclined to respond. But those I tag at the end, feel free to decline.

1) One book that changed my life: This isn't a cop-out. I just looked over at my bookshelf and if we're talking changed my LIFE, the only book I can definitely point to on that one is the Bible . Everything else has given me insight and changed thoughts or practices, but not exactly my life.

2) One book you have read more than once: Hmmm... the only one that comes to mind is Working the Angles by Eugene Peterson. Not to say I haven't read any others more than once, but this is the only one I'm sure of. And I REALLY recommend it. If I had the time and discipline, I'd read it every year. The desire is there.

3) One book you would want on a desert island: It doesn't say THE one book, so I'll pass on the pat "bible" answer here and go with War and Peace by Tolstoy, simply because everyone has said how great it is, but unless I'm on a desert island, there's probably no way I'm going to get a chance, or commit the time, to reading it.

4) Two books that made you laugh: Tough one. I'm going back to elementary school for the first, Don't Care High by Canadian author Gordon Korman. I'm pretty sure I laughed at the absurdity of a high school that was more zombie than anything else - especially while I was in grade 4. And while I could go with the Presbyterian Book of Order, or the way I've seen it being used and abused lately, I'm instead going to go with Stephen Lawhead's The Paradise War (Song of Albion trilogy, book 1) for nothing other than the cover art. It was a great book and I highly recommend Lawhead if you're into fantasy, but I made fun of Bridgette mercilessly for years because it looked like a trashy romance novel, it's not.

5) One book that made you cry: I don't think I've shed a tear over a book. Although if any book would have, Henri Nouwen's In the Name of Jesus would certainly be one. Now, if this question had been movies, I'd have a slew of them, but books, not so much.

6) One book you wish you'd written: I'm torn here between Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows because if I'd written it, and the six books before them instead of Rowling, I'd be ROLLING in all that money. I'm torn between that and Rick Steve's Europe Through the Backdoor 2008, The Travel Handbook because that would have meant I'd traveled Europe extensively enough to write the book - that would be awesome.

7) One book you wish had never been written: As hard as it is to argue with Mein Kampf, I'm going to go with Marx's The Communist Manifesto. Call me what you want politically - and I do agree with some of the things that Marx puts forth - but what people have done with his writings over the years...

8) Two books you are currently reading: I'll break the rules and give you the THREE books I'm actually reading - The Connecting Church by Randy Frazee, Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell and Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels. All good & interesting in very different ways.

9) One book you've been meaning to read: John Bright's The Kingdom of God. I started and got through the Intro, put it down and haven't picked it back up - not for any lack on the book's part.

10) Five people that I tag: Wes Barry, Lars Rood, Rob Higgins, Dave Derus, and of course, Bridgette. I would've tagged Raymond Bonwell & David Hallgren, but I'm not sure how they'd post unless they do so as a reply because they don't "blog", but I'm certainly curious about them as well...

Monday, January 14, 2008

On My Way

5 days, 21 hrs, 5 minutes until I preach on James 3, possibly the most difficult passage in the bible for those of us who are paid to speak, among other things. I'm well on my way, thanks in part to this paraphrased comment from Colin Cowherd of The Herd on ESPN Radio.

Sometimes one dumb comment cancels out all the good ideas you've just said

If that isn't a reminder to us Christians about the way we speak - particularly in public - then I don't know what is...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Jesus pulled for the Underdog, right?

I'm watching Tom Brady pick apart the Jaguars defense right now. As much of a Wolverine fan as I am, I'm pulling for Jacksonville huge. (Which hurts even more when Watson catches another TD just now). Anyway, my first thought about my dislike of the Patriots and their quest of the perfect season at 19-0 is to ask "Do I hate excellence?" Because seriously, that's what I'm looking at. This team is phenomenal. And it's painful for me to watch. And it's pretty much the way I've always been. I've always pulled for the little guy to knock the bully off the top of the hill. So, I'm just another crab, pulling anyone down who gets too high. Or maybe it's something else...

I'm going to side with my second thought. I think there's something else to my dislike of New England and their Super quest. And it has to with the other guy or the other guys. God didn't pick the top dogs when he called a slave nation out of Egypt. Jesus didn't show up on the doorsteps of religious or political leaders when he spoke about God's kingdom designs or offered his healing touch. Gideon was the underdog. David was the underdog. Elijah was the underdog. And hanging on a cross, bloodied and beaten, is Jesus not the ultimate image of the underdog? So, I ask you, how can I not cheer for the underdog? I mean, if history hasn't taught us anything else, it's taught us that at the end of the day, it's going to be an underdog who will win in the end...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

It's not always what you think

I was on my way into the church this morning when I saw a sign that caught my eye. "Horse Boarding" followed by a phone number. Now, with everything in the news about waterboarding as a form of interrogation and whether or not it was reallytorture, that sign particularly jumped out at me. Were they making some kind of political statement? Were they trying to say that waterboarding isn't torture? Were they trying to be funny, advertising for the torturing of an animal? No, they were simply advertising that you could house your horse with them - stable them, for lack of a better word. And I realize that words are important. We can't go throwing them around without acknowledging that they are connected to other words, and other meanings that may have no direct link to what we mean by the words we use.

As Christians, we need to be especially diligent about the words we use, and I don't simply mean speaking nicely to others. We need to understand that the words we use, even though we may be using them in their original "sense," still may have connections and unintended consequences in people's minds that dredge up images we never thought of. So we have to be careful, and aware, that our message, God's message, is very easily entangled simply because of the way we are given to impart it. But after all, that was Jesus' method wasn't it? Verbal transmission of what he had done and taught and what the disciples and we who have followed them have witnessed. Just a reminder that the job is difficult...

Monday, January 07, 2008

I love my wife!!!

Bridgette likes football, but she's not going to sit and watch 6-8 hrs of college football on a Saturday or NFL on a Sunday, but she came up with the best line just now. She asked me "Who's winning." As of 9:40pm EST, I said LSU, 17-10. Her retort? "Good!" We've lived in Ohio for 6 months now and she's embraced just about everything, but she's been absolutely astonished about the idolatry of the Buckeyes. As a fan of that team up north, I love that she hates OSU!

As I hit post, LSU just scored again... *smile*...

Saturday, January 05, 2008

I'm not very political, BUT...

First, I'm from Canada. So, all the political stuff here in the US with the upcoming election is a little outside of where I'm at. I can't vote, so I can't get too up in arms about things. But I can have an opinion, and oddly enough, it's derived from two very different sources. The first, is my childhood. I asked my dad once, "Who's that on TV?" "That's the President." he said. "So, there's the Prime Minister and then there's the President, who's his boss, right?" He laughed. The President on TV? You guessed it, Ronald Reagan. That's the man I grew up with as "the leader of the free world." Naturally, seeing Fred Thompson on TV all those years on Law & Order, sitting behind that desk, speaking with that deep voice... it's as close to a Reagan reincarnation as I'm going to get. However, with the results of Iowa in, Thompson isn't looking so hot so far. So, if I can't get Reagan II...

I'm hoping for John Edwards. You may be scratching your head, but I'm Canadian. I don't have to adhere to a party, and neither really represents all of what I believe as a Christian. I'm a fan of small government & low taxes, and no guns and universal health care. I think we should be completely pro-life, from conception through death. There aren't too many politicians who span THAT gamut. Anyway, I just got over watching a lot of the New Hampshire debates, unfortunately, I only realized too late that it was on (I was busy watching the Steelers get their tales handed to them by the Jacksonville Jaguars.) But while I watched most of the Democrat debate I was reminded of something. Had the Kerry-Edwards '04 Democratic ticket read "Edwards-Kerry" instead, not only would I have voted (had I had the chance) for the Dems, I think they would've won. And not simply because Kerry looked like a horse and sounded like a baffoon. I think Edwards was the real deal. And he spoke from a middle-class life that I think resonates with more people than that of Kerry or most any other candidate in '08.

But since I don't get to vote, I'll simply stay informed and hope that I can respect the president of the US when he or she is elected in November. Until then, I like everyone else will simply watch and cheer, because quite honestly, it's become the biggest sporting event in the world, and it only happens every four years...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

This Year's Verse

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3

It's a new year and I'm thinking that this verse, which just happened to be part of today's lectionary reading, is a perfect verse for me to spell out just what not only I want for this new year, but what I believe God is calling me to live out in this new year. Simply to live out what I have been called to...

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Go Blue!

Looks like we've found someone in the Big 10 who can beat Florida - and yes, that's a backhanded reference to a certain team very close to my home. It was quite a game and I'm just sad that I was unable to see the look on my friend's face.

Yes, this is how I've spent my New Year's Day. I'll write a post about my New Year's Eve sometime later. Suffice to say, I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I enjoyed the game I just finished watching. Now that was an amazing game. If only they'd turned out a couple of those earlier in the season...