Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Daily Stuff

Daily Links

Rain Barrels from the Aquarium

  Thoughts on the Strangeness of Easter

God is about making you new

Pictures from Chernobyl


Good morning, God.

  Another day seems like another miracle from your generous hands.  Gifts fall forth like marbles from your hand, rolling across the land as eyes open to another beautiful sunrise, careening into our lives as gifts for which I am so grateful.  What a marvelous gift today is--may I live in wonder of it all day long.

  Lord, storms race across the country, and I pray for those who are in their path.  I pray for those whose life have already been torn asunder by them, and for those who mourn the losses from their terror.  I pray for those who have no place to go when the sirens sound, who huddle in doorways and search for whatever shelter the merciless city has to offer.  Forgive us, Lord, for creating a society where such things can be true, and imagine with us how we can ensure that such things do not continue to be so.

  I ask for your wisdom today, Lord.  Guide my thoughts and my heart to focus on you, that all I do may be for your glory.  May I not focus on the semi-precious gifts the world offers me in return for my heart, but may I focus my gaze on you and pursue you with passionate abandon.

  I love you, Lord.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011


  Our baby, this week, is the size of an onion.  Which leads me to a confession--I buy Spanish onions at the grocery store simply because they sound so much more exotic than the regular, plain onions.  I have no idea if they taste differently.  I feel more cultured buying 'Spanish onions'.

  Which, of course, leads me down a different path.  When Rachel and I were looking at day cares, we were very interested in whether or not the day cares taught the children Spanish.  Obviously, Spanish language skills will only prove to be more helpful as the number of Spanish-speaking residents of the US increases.  But I'm still trying to figure out why we became so caught up in this, as though a daycare not teaching Spanish would have been the end of the world as we know it.  I don't speak Spanish, and am not actively trying to learn.  Rachel hasn't spoken Spanish in roughly seven years, and she's not working on her Spanish.  How is a child ever going to retain anything it learns in daycare if it never hears a word of it at home?

  I'm thrilled about the idea that the daycare will be very intentionally diverse, both in terms of language and culture, but how do I reflect that importance in my own life?  Am I content to say that it's good enough for my child, but not important for me?

  Just things to think about.

  In related news, Rachel went to the doctor this morning, and everything looks great.  The doctor said the baby is moving around a lot, undoubtedly because, since it can now hear, it has Bon Jovi stuck in its head, and its rocking out.

  In unrelated news, due to the fact that my car now plays my iPod on random whenever I drive somewhere, I now know all the words to 'Be Our Guest' from Beauty and the Beast.  I have no idea how it ended up on my iPod, but, well, there it is.

Daily Stuff

I almost always enjoy David Brooks' articles--here's one on the state of the political system.

Two upcoming webinars:

A Final Four for the rest of the world

The biggest known spider fossil has been found!  Yay!


  It's hard to watch a movie when you know how it's going to end, as good as the movie may be.

  I enjoyed watching Secretariat.  Disney's movie about the famous racehorse captured me, but there was something that prevented me from getting completely caught up in the movie, and I think it's the realization that the movie was never as dramatic as it could have been, because I knew Secretariat won the Triple Crown.  As tense as some of the moments might have been, I knew who would come out on top.  And that takes a lot away from a movie where the drama rests mostly on whether or not Secretariat is going to win.  (For example, Seabiscuit was far more engaging for me, because I knew nothing about Seabiscuit.  The Mighty Ducks was dramatic because we didn't know whether the knuckle puck or the flying V would work.  But I digress...)

  The lesson I take from Seabiscuit is the importance of following your passions, of doing what is critically important, even though sacrifice is often required to do so.  Diane Lane plays Penny Chenery, the housewife who inherits the family farm and a stable of racehorses.  Her family is halfway across the country in Denver, while she is in Virginia, trying to keep the farm afloat, believing fully in Secretariat's potential to win the Triple Crown.  She takes risks, gambles, and sacrifices a lot in order to succeed, and in the end she is rewarded for her sacrifices.

  We sacrifice to make time, to save energy, for those things that matter most to us.  It's why they tell you to look at a person's checkbook to see what matters most to them.  What is it in your life that you will always make time to do, and what will you do only if you have enough time to do it?  My attitude toward spiritual disciplines will often run dangerously toward the latter--I'll do it if I have time, but I'm usually more willing to make time to do recreational activities, to work out, to play.  I make those things a priority, and I don't sacrifice to build up my relationship with God.

  Secretariat was able to win the Triple Crown because a lot of people believed in him enough to give of their time, energy and money to get him to the race.  I believe that God will redeem the world out of God's great love, but I believe that God is longing for us to put God first, to join in with what God is doing in the world.

  We'll have to make some tough choices, to make some sacrifices, but it is the only path to abundant life, even though I imagine I'll never stop looking for shortcuts.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Daily Stuff

A challenge: Do you deny the resurrection of Christ?

Some thoughts on the 'new universalism'

If you couldn't be here on Sunday, here is a link to my Easter Sermon, and it will be up on the iTunes website soon.

Easter cartoons from NPR (I love the first one)

I can't decide what to make of 'The Bible is dead, Long live the Bible.' (written by my college advisor, I'm sure you'd interested in knowing)

A great read on parenting

Today in Church History:  The Sinai Peninsula is returned to Egypt by Israel.  (1982)

The King's Speech is up next in our queue!  We just watched Secretariat on Saturday.  I'm grateful to have some lighter movies after some of the heavy stuff we've been watching lately.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Are you following Jesus?

Good Friday

  Just imagine...

  A young man, more innocent than any that has ever walked this earth, praying in the garden with such intensity that his sweat was like blood, pooling on the ground, a foreshadowing of things to come, when blood when drip from the wounds in his hands and feet where the nails were callously driven by soldiers with orders to kill.

  A group of disciples, of followers, who had watched in wonder as this man had conquered every obstacle in the past three years.  With a touch he had cured blindness, with a word cast out demons, and with a prayer multiplied bread.  He moved with grace, and every eye followed his movements, as though missing one action might be missing everything.  They knew he was special--but did they know how special?

  the leaders of the temple, men deeply ensconced in power, adapted to a life of control, of ease, of comfort.  They knew their role in life, and others quaked in fear, knowing they had power to welcome and to cast out.  They quivered in the presence of Jesus, this poetic genius who thwarted their efforts to trap and detain him.  He was three steps ahead of them, and they hated him for it.  No effort, no expense was spared to cast his life into the pit.

  These three groups, and so many onlookers, clashed in the dark of night in the Garden, and then once more at the trial, and again as Jesus made his way to Golgotha.  It is hard for me to imagine a more soul crushing sight than the Savior of the world, beaten and seemingly broken, trudging those lonely steps with a cross spread across his tarnished back.  If there was no hope for him, surely there is no hope for us.

  There he hangs upon the cross, the light of the world, pierced by darkness, and his life ebbs from him, breath by breath, as the rising tide devours the beach with merciless progression.

  What is hope in the face of such a death?  What is light in a valley so deep?  What is memory when it hurts to look back and see what humanity has done to our Savior?

  It is as though darkness prevailed, as though power and might won, as though evil cannot be stopped on its way to the throne.  Even the Son of God falls prey to death's insatiable appetite.

  We could save our benediction, our end of the story, until Easter, but that would be trying to deny that we know how the story ends, which is as futile as trying to hold back that onrushing tide.  We know how the story ends--we know that the stone has been rolled away, that the women who went to the tomb in mourning came back in wonder.  We know that Mary saw Jesus in the garden, that Thomas cried out "My Lord and My God", and the bells of love tolled their victory song.  Jesus died, and was raised, that death itself might be pierced, that the air might be let from the balloon, in order that death might become simply a lurking shadow, a powerless vacuum, unable to hold those who are claimed by Christ.  Death had Christ in its hands, and rather than dancing in joy it now trembles in fear, for it has been crushed by the heel of the one who came to save.

  We cannot live Good Friday pain without remembering Easter joy, and yet we cannot pass over today, any more than we can ignore the reality of our own death.  Let us remember our sin and death, and the sacrifice of Christ, and in so doing be renewed in gratitude, wonder and awe, going forth to worship our Savior with every breath of our lives.

  Death has been swallowed up in victory.
  WhereO death, is your victory?
  Where, O death, is your sting?  (1 Cor. 15:54-55)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

4/21 E-News


Maundy Thursday Service—Tonight @ 6:30
Good Friday Service—Tomorrow, 12:00-1 @ Coolidge Park
Sunrise Service—This Sunday,@ 6:45. 
Easter Cantata—This Sunday! 

New Hope News

Eleanor Hall had a pacemaker put in yesterday at Parkridge.  She expects to go home today.

Pray for…
All those who fail to recognize the presence and peace of Christ swirling around and within them.

New Hope PC attire:  Get it here

The ‘Big Tent’ Conference is in Indianapolis this year

Text for this Week

Mark 16:1-8

The Resurrection of Jesus
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 

As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. 

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Week 16

    Be careful what you say!  This is the week that the little one can now pick up our voices (and perhaps the melodious sounds of the nearby rifle range).  I suppose we should start playing Beethoven or something complex, in order to ensure the child comes forth from the womb with a well-developed sense of musical taste. This may also mean I have to stop playing the piano for the next 24 weeks!

  Taste buds are also forming this week.  As I have mentioned earlier, God is much better at planning than I am.  What possible use could taste buds be now?  If the ultrasound on May 10 shows the child sitting down to a steak dinner, then I suppose there could be a purpose, but otherwise, couldn't those things have waited a bit longer?

  It took until week 8 for the child to grow to .6 inches long.  This past week, the child has grown .6 inches, so that it is now around 4.6 inches long...  amazing.  That means it is about the size of an avocado.

Mr. Bean

Yup, it happens! (usually not this dramatically, though)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Daily Stuff

Good News to the poor

Our love/hate relationship with plastic

River City Company has a new website--Come play!

Need a new lunchbox?

Today in Church History:  April 20, 1139--2nd Lateran Council opens in Rome


  Apparently, this week the baby is the size of a small studfinder.  I suddenly feel guilty for hurling these things against the wall whenever they don't work.  (Which is most of the time.  These things are right about as often as the Bengals are with their draft picks.  I own three of them [studfinders, not draft picks], and I don't trust any of them.  Rachel avoids me whenever I am using them.  Small animals flee for the hills, and parents cover their kids' ears when I pick one up.)

  The baby is growing toenails this week--I don't suppose those are of much use in the womb, but then again, I don't know what use they are outside of it, either.  (Has anyone ever had a moment where they said, "I'm so glad I have toenails."?  I can't think of one.)

  The circulatory system is working as well.  About 25 quarts of blood are being circulated each day.  That sounds like a lot.  (Is that a lot?)

  I'll try and post some pictures of Rachel--we've taken a few over the past 8 weeks, so you can tell for yourself if she looks pregnant.

  All is well, though.  She's not nearly as tired as she has been in recent weeks, but the accounting system at TVA is also installed fully now, and I suspect those two things may be related somehow.  But I'm not a doctor.  Thoughts of nurseries run through our minds, although we're not entirely sure what route to take.  Any and all suggestions are welcome.

  Only 23 more weeks...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Daily Stuff

Did Jesus pass Saturn on His way to Heaven?

A message worth sharing:  Evangelism in the airport

A debate over the date of the Last Supper (and yes, I need the extra day to plan my Maundy Thursday meditation)

Transform your Bible Reading

A 'Do-Something' Church

Today in Church History:  The Branch-Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, led by David Koresh, burned to the ground, killing 86 people in the culmination of the 51 day standoff.

What I'm reading:  Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy.  Incredible stuff about living in God's Kingdom.

Get Low

  "It's time for me to get low."

  With those words Robert Duvall's character, Felix Bush, begins his quest to plan his own funeral.  The only difference between this funeral and most other funerals is that Bush wants to attend his funeral.

  Get Low is an odd, endearing tale, one in which the viewer is constantly trying to discover the motive behind all this, and yet the story unfolds in such a sweet way that I never grew impatient with it, and like it more and more as the story wound together.

  Felix Bush is an odd, mountain man, the type about which countless stories and legends have been told, most of which aren't true, but are told to scare children and grown-ups alike.  He lives on the outskirts of town, and seems to be an enigma to anyone who crosses his path, until strangers from long ago return and begins to peel back all the layers of Bush's history.

  More than anything else, Get Low was a tale about forgiveness, and what our transgressions can do to us if we don't accept forgiveness.  They will grow and devour our lives, our wills, if we let them.  I imagine that we punish ourselves far more than most others punish us, and Felix Bush has something in his past that has been gnawing at him for forty years, and it has consumed him to the point that he cannot live without telling his tale.

  Do you allow yourself to be forgiven?  Do you accept grace and mercy?  Or do you choose to wall up your sins inside you, denying grace any entry and allowing those sins to consume and devour you?  Christ has nailed our sins to the cross--are you constantly trying to pull them back off the cross and prevent them from dying there?

Saturday, April 16, 2011


  So I typically have pretty strange dreams, often involving pirates for some reason.  (Perhaps it's all the great pirate jokes I know)

  Last night, though, I had one that has stayed with me.

  I had a dream that I had been wrongly convicted of a crime.  The sentence for my crime?  Crucifixion.  I have the distinct memory of three hardened nails sitting on a conference table.  I also remember the fact that the person who had the capability to overturn my conviction knew that I was innocent, knew that I was expecting a child and yet refused to set me free.  He merely referred my case to his overseer, a merciless man who enjoyed the thought of my impending death.  There was no mercy for me.

  Many others came to plead my defense, and I, too, was very upset at this conviction.  I tried to guilt the man into doing what he knew was right, and I could sense the guilt within him.  I complained, again and again, about how unfair it all was.  Couldn't he see that he was allowing my life to be wasted?

  When I woke up this morning, I was busy trying to process all of this.  On the drive in to our men's breakfast, I was filled with thoughts of my dream, and of my King, Jesus Christ.

  It was exactly what happened to Him--Christ was unfairly crucified, and His conviction could have easily been overturned.  But there was no mercy for him.

  The difference is that He went to the cross without complaining to Pilate about how unfair it all was.  He went to the cross precisely because it was unfair--humanity would receive more than we deserved through His death.  He came that we may have life, even if it meant His death.  He came because the fair outcome of our sins was death, but He chose life.  He prayed to His Father for the cup to pass, but He went along with God's will out of obedience.  It was all so unfair, and yet He died, anyway.

  All day, I've been wrestling with this dream.  Do I truly recognize the enormity of what Christ did, of accepting the outcome of sin and death upon His shoulders, in His crucifixion?  Do I live with a grateful heart?  Do I live with purpose for Him, or have I heard the story so many times that I no longer allow it to affect me? Have I grown callous to the thought of another man, a much better man, dying in my stead?

  Is this dream a wake-up call, a call to a renewal of my baptismal vows, a chance to live in gratitude for the grace that I have received, a call to recognize how unfair life is--that I have the chance for abundant life in Christ despite my sins?

  I am praying that I will be thankful that life is unfair, and that I will be more aware of the sacrifice of Christ, and live with a purpose, for glorifying Him.


  Week 15:  Our baby is roughly the size of an orange.

  I think an orange would help...I could use the sugar rush to give me some energy to write a sermon.

  Want to know something crazy?  (Of course you do.  Why else would you be here?)

  If you shine a flashlight at Rachel's womb, our baby will move away from it, able to sense the light.  (If only squirrels on the road were so intelligent...  but that's another subject, I suppose.)  The eyelids are fused together, but it can still sense light.

  Its legs are also longer than its arms, but that's not nearly as interesting.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Pretty sure I need one of these.

Amusing Ourselves to Death


  It's hard to believe a book can be so dated and so compelling at the same time.

  Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business was recommended to me some time ago, and it soon became one of the many books I bought but appeared to have no intention to read.  I picked it up yesterday on a whim, and had a hard time putting it down.

  Amusing Ourselves to Death was written in 1985, and focuses on the intrusion of television into our daily lives.  Postman argues, very well, that television has changed the way we think as well as the way we learn--television has convinced us that we must be entertained, even if we may not be learning.  Postman looks at all the advantages that television brings, and breaks them down, explaining why our ability to hear news from around the world is actually not an advantage at all.  It is dumbing us down, slowly but surely, to the point where even our schools have succumbed to trying simply to entertain rather than educate.

  Postman tackles everything on television, from the News Hour to Sesame Street to sitcoms to televised preaching.  In regard to preaching, he writes:
on television, religion, like everything else, is presented, quite simply and without apology, as an entertainment.  Everything that makes religion an historic, profound and sacred human activity is stripped away; there is no ritual, no dogma, no tradition, no theology, and above all, no sense of spiritual transcendence.  On these shows, the preacher is tops.  God comes out as second banana.

  Postman's ideas are well-worth considering for those involved in church leadership--are we seeking to entertain and amuse, or to be transformed by the living Word of God?  Are we hoping to transform, or merely find laughter and high ratings?

  Much of this book is dated, but all of it speaks directly to our culture today, perhaps even more so than it did in its time.  It provides serious, thought-provoking arguments about how television shapes us, as individuals, as families, as cultures, and grants food for thought about how to resist seeking mere entertainment and to pursue lives that are educated, well-rounded, and devoted to faithfulness above all else.

  Here's an interesting video summing up Postman's theory that it was not George Orwell's vision of the future in 1984 that we had to fear, but rather Aldous Huxley's in Brave New World.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

4/14 E-News

Easter Egg Hunt—This Saturday, at 10:30!  Come and join us for the fun

Men’s Breakfast—This Saturday,@ 8:00. 

Youth Musical—This Sunday! 

New Hope News

Holy Week Schedule
Wednesday night—nothing scheduled.
Thursday—6:30 Service @ Church. 
Friday—12-1 Good Friday service @ Coolidge Park. 
Sunrise Service—6:45. 
Pray for…
May we remember all those pockets of the world in such desperate need that have slipped from the headlines… Chile (earthquake).  Pakistan (Floods) Haiti (Earthquake) New Zealand (Earthquake) The list goes on…


Have more kids.  Pay less attention to them.  Thought provoking, if nothing else.

Text for this Week

Mark 11:1-11

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.”  

They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 

Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
   Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
   Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
 Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Psalm 119:92

"If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my misery."   Psalm 119:92

Do you ever stop and read a verse, over and over, and marvel at the wisdom contained within?

How often do the things of our lives, the things that promise to bring us joy and freedom, the things that promise to make our lives easier and less stressful, end up causing us more stress and grief, making us miserable?

When we delight in the ways of the world, we ultimately find misery.

When we delight in the ways of God, in the ways of love and selflessness, in the ways of peace and gratitude, we find the abundant life that God has promised.

What will be the source of your delight?

Life and the Living of It

  I just finished reading Peter J. Gomes' The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus.  Interesting book (my brief thoughts on it can be found on my blog for the church)--but it's strange to read a book written by a man who recently passed away.  I don't know if I read the words any differently, or if the message changes, but I certainly look at the book and wonder if he'd be happy with it.  If he knew exactly when he would die, and he knew that this book would be his last major (to my knowledge) contribution to the literary world, would he change it?  I have no doubt that he did far more than I am aware of, and, from what I know, he should be proud of most of it, but I wonder what he would say about it, in reflection.

  I suppose it's a question for all of us--are we happy with the contribution we've made?  If we knew that today, that tonight, was our last, and we had the chance to look back and reflect upon how we've spent our time on this incredibly vibrant orb as it spins through the galaxies, what would our attitude be?

  Would be grateful that we simply had the chance to participate in this delightfully unpredictable thing called life?

  Would we be disappointed that we tried and failed, or perhaps that we failed to try at all?

  Would we be filled with anguish or remorse, with joy and thanksgiving, or some strange alchemy of each?

  If the Lord came and took your hand, would you look back over your shoulder as this sweet and sorrowful place faded into the distance, or would you simply let it slide, knowing that each moment had been lived to the best of your ability?  (Now, I firmly believe that all of life will pale in comparison to the fullness of Christ's glory, but we can still wonder, right?)

  We always count on more time, until there is no more.  And then it's gone, and our contribution to our brothers and sisters with whom we share this planet is frozen, even if the way it is seen is often altered by those left behind to process it all.  We can no longer control what we offer.

  And so, with that knowledge, how do we live?  Do we live panicked, afraid of an uncertain end, terrified that all we desire will never fit into the time we have left?

  Or do we embrace love, certain that whatever contribution we can make is best spoken in the universal language of love?  Do we live with a firm confidence that God has filled us with a love that is to be shared, rather than hoarded, and trust that while we cannot control the amount of time we have to love, we can control the amount of love we share within our time?  Do we offer ourselves freely, sweetly, to those in need, friends and strangers alike, or are our hands so tightly clenched around the blessings we have received that we are unable and unwilling to speak a word of compassion to those with whom we wander this way?

  When it is all written like this, it seems so clear.  In the living of it, so often my view grows fuzzy, as though blinded by continual snowstorms of fear and uncertainty.  I hoard my talents, my treasures, afraid of what might happen if I do not maintain the illusion of control over my fate.  As a result, I so often fail to love, ducking at opportunities to embrace a world that seems to be crying out for a hug.

  I try to love, and believe that I succeed as often as I fail.  I believe that grace abounds, that the love I see on the cross is stronger and deeper than I can imagine, and I believe this love picks me up and sets me back upon my feet when I stumble across so many man-made obstacles that litter the narrow way.  I have great hope.

  So are we happy with the contributions we have made, with the lives we have lived?  Are we hopeful for what awaits?

  How shall we live--with faces turned towards yesterday, shrouded in questions about choices and actions, or looking forward in hope, to the east, where the sun rises once more to illumine a world in need of love, and warms us to the core, reminding us of the love that lies within, ready to be poured out, that we might truly live?

The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus

  Peter J. Gomes, who recently passed away, believes in hope.  The long-time minister at Harvard, who gave the benediction at Ronald Reagan's second inauguration, believes that the best is yet to come, and our lives ought to be shining examples of that.

  The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus is the follow-up to The Good Book and The Good Life, both well-worth reading if you haven't yet done so.

  In this latest volume, Gomes challenges us to consider who Jesus truly was, and how we are following him.  (A first check would be to be sure that we truly are)

  Jesus was one who shook things up, who challenged the status quo, who was not one to condone a comfortable life in comfortable churches.  Jesus, Gomes presents, was one to encourage people to see even their most hated enemy as someone worthy of their love.  Jesus was one who pointed us forward, to God's kingdom, and didn't want us to wait until we died to start living a life worthy of God's kingdom.  Jesus was one who believed in a life based upon inclusive, radical love.

  Gomes is not content simply to challenge the individual.  He challenges the churches to lead the people, to challenge the people, and not to allow comfort and security to rule the day.  While we are busy fighting over petty, insular issues, the world around us is crying out in need of the Gospel.  Will we share it, or will we use it to comfort ourselves in our hours of need?


Good morning, God.

  Thanks for another day.  I am humbled by the grace that sustains me.  I pray that this day is an offering to you, rooted in gratitude, offered with joy.

  I pray for this violent, scary world.  There seem to be new clashes erupting every second, and I wonder when peace will reign.  I feel so small, lost amidst the anger and vehemence that drives so many to violence--may I live with such passionate peace, may your church pursue peace with reckless abandon, that our example spreads, far and wide.

  Teach us, Lord, to follow in your ways, that we might give an honest witness to life in Christ.  May we not lead others astray.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The end is near...

  Whenever I'm reading a book, I almost always flip forward to the end of the chapter to see how many pages are left.  It's one of the things that has made it so difficult to read on the Kindle--I know how much % of the book I have left, but I don't know how far I have to go until the chapter ends.  It's very difficult for me to read without knowing how many pages are left in this section.  I've done this ever since college, when the reading was pretty dry (only 12 pages left....only 8 pages left....)

  What does this say about me?  I can't quite figure it out.

An Evening Out

  So there I was...

  Standing on the 7th tee box, a beautiful spring evening, eyes red from allergies, score inflated due to a lack of talent, but just grateful to be outside and alive, playing a game on a Monday night.

  A strange and very different idea stuck in my head as I was standing there, waiting for the (very slow) group in front of us to finish in the fairway.  I wondered what life was like for the steelworkers in Andrew Carnegie's day, the ones who worked 14 hour days with no union to protect them, the ones whose lives were sacrificed for the insatiable hunger of industry, of profit.

  And then I remembered that those days did not end then.  There are many who still work 14 hour days.  Some do it in other countries, or in this country, out of the eye of those who might be advocates for them.  Some do it in several jobs, because everyone knows that minimum wage and a living wage do not mean the same thing.  (Rachel has always recommended I read Nickel and Dimed, a book that explores life on minimum wage) Some do it out of duty to others, some out of love for family, some because their is no other way.

  There I was, playing golf on a peaceful (well, as peaceful as any golf course built in the shadow of one of the country's major interstates can be) Monday evening, and the realization that such luxury will never be for many hit me like a ton of bricks.

  Do I see the world as Christ sees it, with all its aches and pains?  Or do I look through luxury-lined glasses, unable to see so much of life because it simply is 'other'?

  And, when I do see, what then?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Week 15

  It's a baseball this week.

  I'm sure there are a lot of other things going on this week, and I imagine I'll get to them later in the week, but right now I am simply sitting here thinking about the fact that my child is the size of a baseball.

  Anything baseball related sends me off on a mental tangent to the nearest stadium, where a nearly perfect, lush field of dreams awaits.  I find myself reclining in uncomfortable, plastic seats, the cool evening breeze making its way lazily around the park, browsing each section and stopping to converse with fans.  We watch as artwork unfolds, as the pitcher and catcher carry on an interchange, briefly interrupted by opponents who rush around the bases, disrupting the game's ebb and flow by their violent hacks and their unlawful steals.  I think of countless hours spent in such palaces, and I cheer for the home team and silently wish malice on those who seek to disturb this beautiful game that unfolds before me.  Watching baseball is rest for my soul.

  So it is with great temerity that I anticipate bringing a much smaller fan with me to the games.  I have a hunch, from watching other parents, that my child will not instantly be amazed by the deft footwork of the second baseman during the almost always artful 6-4-3 double play.  I am highly skeptical if they will notice the way the outfielders tense before each pitch, wondering if the next moment will find them sprinting off to some corner of the park.  I doubt that they will find the triple the most exciting play in baseball, but rather wonder exactly when they can have another snack and tug on my sleeve until they finally can have their picture taken with Looie the Lookout.  Baseball with children may mean an evening at the ballpark, but I don't think there is much room for baseball between frozen lemonades and hot dogs and mascots and all the other fascinating distractions that exist in any baseball stadium.

  Yet, I cannot imagine not sharing this love with my children.  I hope they grow into a love for the game, and I look forward to sharing my love of baseball with them.  I hope they enjoy evenings at the stadium, even if they don't grasp it all at first, but more importantly, I look forward to large chunks of time with them, without televisions or computers, but simply children and parents, together as a family, watching men play a wondrous game.

  Of course, if they don't turn out to be Reds fans, they may have to go live with someone else.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Running the Race

  So there I was...

  I was about half way through the bike ride of the Hammer Duathlon, which I completed this morning (in about 1:42, in case you're dying to know), when there was a dog standing in the middle of a front yard.  I could feel my body instantly tense, waiting for the coming chase, the barking, the yelling, the children cowering in their mother's arms...

  Anyway, as I rode by, I noticed the dog's tongue hanging from the side of its mouth, a look of wonder in its eyes, and I realized that it must have been worn out from chasing the (many) cyclists that had previously passed its way--this must have been like Christmas, one bike after another to chase, a veritable all-you-can-eat buffet.

  I was just grateful not to be first!  Of course, I suppose that, had I been first, I might have been moving faster than most dogs can run, but first place isn't something I'm entirely familiar with.  It was a beautiful morning in bustling Lenoir City, TN, with the smell of gasoline rising from the countless bass boats cruising nearby.  I'd never competed in a duathlon before (run 3 miles, bike 16 miles, run 3 miles), and my sage conclusion upon having now successfully completed one is that they hurt more than triathlons.  The extra leg of running did a number on my feet, and my blisters seem to be developing blisters.  So off to a hot shower and maybe a nap!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

4/7 E-News

Movie Night—On Sunday evening we’ll gather to watch The Iron Giant, one of my favorites, at 6 PM.  Kids of all ages are welcome.  This month, our movie offering will go to the memorial fund established for the Chapin family.

Shower for Kate Steele & Jacob Geerlings—This Saturday, from 2-4 in the McMillan Building! 

Handbells—This Sunday! 

New Hope News
Evelyn Piatt—She has now moved into a permanent room (#111) at Life Care of East Ridge.  Prayers and cards are appreciated.

Pray for…
The Chapin family—here are details about where to give to the scholarship fund for his family


Have you seen Megamind?  Great movie

Text for this Week

Luke 14:15-24
One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ 

But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the slave returned and reported this to his master.

Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.”

Then the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’”
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  I had wanted to see Megamind since I saw the first preview--I still have faith in Will Ferrell movies, even though there hasn't been too much to keep that faith alive recently.  It looked like an original, funny movie, and I wasn't disappointed.  Megamind had more twists and turns that I had expected, and every ten minutes it felt like everything was turned on its head, only to change again--it would be interesting to see this all on a storyboard, to see all the twists plotted out.  There was a lot in here for a 95 minute movie.

  The crucial struggle in the movie is between good and evil.  It is set up in the beginning as a classic hero movie, a battle between the villain and the hero, but then turns on its head as the hero is killed and the villain is left to his own devices, quickly growing bored with chaos.

  As the movie evolves, I realized that the struggle wasn't so much between villains and heroes, but rather within the villain, Megamind.  He had to make the choice about whether he wanted to be bad or good, and it wasn't an easy choice for him.

  Isn't this the battle we all fight?  Don't we all waffle between good and evil, between doing what we know to be right and doing, as Paul writes, not the good I want to do.  (Romans 7)  Alexander Solzhenitsyn captures this in The Gulag Archipelago:  Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhlemed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil.

  We so desperately want to be good, to be faithful, to live a life dedicated to Christ alone.  And yet, in the midst of life, we have so many moments where we fall short.  How critical it is that we recognize that we are sinners, and yet that we are redeemed by Christ, and set here to be a Kingdom focused people, a people living for Christ.  It doesn't mean we have to be perfect--what it means is that we have to be honest about our successes as well as our failures.  We begin living into our eternal life here and now--we won't get it right, but with the Spirit's help God will transform our feeble efforts into something miraculous for the Kingdom.  Sanctification is an ongoing process--are you will to continue to step out in faith, and trust that God will be at work in you, through you, in the world?  We cannot win the world for Christ on our own, but we can focus our life on ensuring that everything we do is a small effort to join in God's redemption of all of creation.