Tuesday, October 26, 2010

This one's for the kids...and parents?

There comes a point in every person life where they realize that their parents actually knew what they were talking about. It comes in stages. The first stage is when we realize our parents know a few things about the inherent dangers of life. For instance, I realized my Dad knew a thing or two about bikes when his bike put a hole in my stomach after he told me to be careful with the touchy brakes. I realized my mom knew something about hot stoves when I seared my tongue on the burner.

The second stage comes when you realize how well your parents know you as an individual. I’m not talking about how they know what to buy you for Christmas or that you only wear white crew cut Nike sox or even that you won’t eat cheese unless it is melted first. They know our tendencies, our weaknesses, and our strengths.

My mom is the best at this. When I was playing sports she knew that the only way to raise my level of competition was to tell me as it is. “You dribble the ball too much…Don’t let that little punk push you around…my Dad can run faster than that and he has a fake hip…that forward made you look like an eleven year old girl dressed in her Sunday best walking on her tiptoes because she doesn’t want to get her white nylons dirty.” You know, the standard pump up lines. To other onlookers this may have seemed cruel but it was always the best way to show me love. She knew that the constant pats on the back and “Great effort. You’ll get them next time…” didn’t work for me. Thanks mom!

There is a third stage that parents don’t even know about. It is the little things they say that kids remember years later and take encouragement from. My mom and dad had a phrase they used to say often, “Children are a blessing from the Lord.” It is hard to capture the way they say it on paper because there was always a bit of sarcasm in their voices as if they were trying to convince themselves the words they just said could actually be true. This phrase was usually said when I was being annoying. Like when I would bounce a basketball off the wall and shake the whole house or throw slippers at my mom when she was trying to watch football. Sometimes they would say it in the grocery store when I kept asking for the Wolverine action figure we just walked past or when I tried to convince them to buy frozen pizza for every meal.

I didn’t realize until this week the depth of truth contained in this phrase. To be honest, I have struggled teaching for the last couple of weeks. Not because I have no desire to do so or lack of subject matter. It was because of lack of results. It seemed like every week I got up front and taught a lesson that connected very well on a Middle School level but it just went in one ear and out the other of my students. I work at a church consisting mostly of “church kids”. These are the kids that have been in church their whole lives and who think their lives are right on track because they can quote scripture in a quiz team practice. These are kids just like me. And they frustrate the life out of me sometimes.

Last Wednesday I prepared a lesson out of John 3 about our need to be born again and I laid it out straight just like my mom used to do. I said, “Nicodemus was a man who thought he had everything figured out because he kept all the commandments, wore all the religious garb, and new the law backwards and forwards. But Jesus came along and said ‘All your traditions and empty sacrifices are worth nothing because you have no relationship with me. You need to be born again.’ Some of the students in this room are just like Nicodemus. You think your life is on the right track because you do all the good religious things your parents told you to do but you have never surrendered your life to Christ.”

The room was full of unbelieving stares. I had pretty much told them that some of them were headed for hell and didn’t know it. After the message, two boys came up to me; Greg and Andrew. Both of them live in the inner city and neither of them have a dad in their lives. They are the exact opposite of church kids. They know their lives are a mess and there is no reason to hide it. They both told me that they wanted to be born again. I had the unbelievable privilege of walking them both through the plan of salvation and leading them to Christ! As soon as they left that night I heard my mom’s words ringing in my ear…Children are a blessing from the Lord. Except this time there was no sarcasm. They were words of absolute truth with deep and rich encouragement for a struggling son. They truly were a blessing to my life.

Those two young men gave me more encouragement then they will probably ever know, but that would never have happened if my parents were not willing to speak biblical truth into my life. We never know if our words grab onto anything between one ear and the other. Sometime it feels like we are speaking to an empty room. Parents, speak truth to your kids. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Your words are not falling on empty ears; it just might take a while to sink in. Teachers, Children are a blessing for you too. They may seem like little aliens who inhabit the earth for the sole purpose of robbing you of all happiness but every once in a while you get a glimpse of their blessing in your life.

My parents had another phrase… “Walk it off.” They would use this one whenever I was hurt or when I was acting like I was hurt to get some sympathy. I just burned my tongue on some coffee that was as hot bacon cooked with napalm and need to put into practice what my parents taught me. So I’m going to go walk off this tongue situation. Thank you mom and dad for the encouragement this week and thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bacon from a Hand Dryer

It has been several months since I have updated this blog and to be quite honest some of you have been very impatient waiting for its return. I’m sure you will understand why it’s been so long when I tell you that I have been in a coma for the last three months. When I say in a coma I really mean that sometimes I was too busy to write and other times I was too lazy. Being in a coma sounds like a much better reason for not updating a blog. And for those of you who are new to this blog and are offended by me making fun of the comatose state then you should probably stop reading this blog and go read one about various types of house plant that can grow in moderate to high amounts of sunlight.

Truth be told, this blog would have sat dormant for even long had it not been for a hand dryer I saw this weekend. The hand dryer was like any other I suppose. It included drawings of how to use the hand dryer (who needs a drawing seriously?) that portray a person’s hand drying under a gust of warm air coming from said dryer. You can tell the air is warm because in the drawing it is the color red. On this particular hand dryer there was a message right next to the drawing etched into the metal no doubt by some teenager who had way too much time on his hands and who though a lot like me because the message read “FREE BACON”. It took me a while to figure out that the artist was describing the scene on the dryer. The warm gust of air looked exactly like a single strip of bacon coming out of a hand dryer. I think that all bathrooms should have bacon dispensing machines. I believe it is more important than toilet paper to be honest.

The fact that I had never noticed the similarities between warm cartoon air and bacon made me want to blog about the experience. But if I just sat here and rambled about bacon I would lose all of you to something more interesting like…watching someone read. So I decided to tell you about the whole wedding and not just the part where I went to the bathroom and someone else was in there so I had to wash my hands so they wouldn’t think I was gross and then I had to dry them because they were wet and that’s when I saw the bacon. I actually learned a lot at that wedding. Most of it won’t matter tomorrow but at least it will be entertaining today.

First I learned that some women buy really long shirts and wear them out in public as dresses. My wife and I were grossed out on several occasions when someone, who shall remain nameless (if I had a name I’d give you one but I only knew like 7.5 people at the wedding and none of my family is that dumb) bent over to grab a cookie or 17 and showed off her junk and trunk to the entire room. Ewwwwwwwwwwwwweeeeeeewughhhhhhhhh! When a person buys clothes they really should know what purpose that piece of clothing serves. I have never in my life tried to wear a sock as a shirt or a shirt as a pair of pants…except that time at camp when I was trying to be funny. You can’t get away with wearing a shirt as a dress unless you are five years old and are using your dad’s shirt for pajamas.

I also learned middle aged men dancing is one of the most fascinating things I have ever seen. I don’t know what it is about 50 year olds that makes them move so funny. There is a weird progression to their dancing. First, there is the conservative phase. This usually takes place when they are dragged onto the dance floor by their wives and realize that everyone in the room including the woman with a walker has more rhythm than they do. This type of dancing usually involves little more than rocking back and forth from foot to foot. Second comes the acceptance phase. This comes a result of realizing that dancing is fun and it doesn’t matter that you look like a wooden toy. This type of dancing usually involves wild flailing of the legs and sometimes arms. People move from stage one to stage two very quickly when alcohol is involved. The third phase is called compensation. This occurs when the middle age man realizes that everyone stares at him when he is “cutting a rug”. The man then tries to compensate by acting like he actually knows how to dance. He pulls moves like the lawn mower, the sprinkler, the really bad moon walk, the worm, the shopping cart, and the country stomp. Finally, there is the phase of defeat. This happens when the older man is either hurt by his violent jerking or when he is laughed off the dance floor. When I’m at family weddings and see people dancing I sometimes feel like I am watching an obscure mating ritual of a blue footed booby (the bird) and it makes complete sense to those involved but to those watching it is either awkward or really funny.

Last but certainly not least I had the privilege of watching my family members interact; particularly how my parents gravitated towards my 6 month old nephew Atreyu. They are like putty in the hands of a new born. They talk in weird voices, make baby noises and tell anyone who will listen how great it is to be a grandparent. This reminded me of my relationship with my heavenly father. When I draw close to him and rest in his arms he is just like my dad when he holds Atreyu; full of joy, protective, willing to do anything for his grandchild. God loves to hold his children and loves when they abide and take rest in his arms. He takes pleasure in our obedience and in return we find peace and contentment when we don’t struggle to get free of his grasp. It is amazing what God can you when you sit still, watch, and be open to his leading.

So the wedding was not only fun but also educational and eye opening. Who knew you could learn so much about bacon, hand dryers, wardrobe no no’s, dancing, and God and one wedding? I feel as if my blog spark has come back and I will now be spewing out more random stories and life lessons than you could possibly gather in a five gallon bucket or a faded blue kiddy pool. Stay tuned for more products from this manufacturer and as always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pet Giraffe

Life can be surprising sometimes. Some people hate surprises and even get mad at you when you don’t tell them what they are getting for their birthday or that they are having a surprise party. These are the people who need to be able to predict everything and hold grudges against weather men when they feel the slightest drop of rain. Then there are sane people who generally like surprises because it makes life interesting. I say generally because there are two types of surprises; the bad surprises that no one likes and good surprises that some of us like. A bad surprise is like when your parents go on vacation and you think they will bring you back some weird novelty t-shirt and they actually bring you back a book mark. A good surprise is like when your parents go on vacation and you think they are going to bring you back a weird novelty t-shirt and they actually bring you back a pet giraffe.

We also all have expectations…about everything…even stuff we don’t think we have expectations about. Take this morning for instance. When you woke up and opened your eyes and expected to still be in your bed that is in your room that has at least four walls and a ceiling. When you wake up and find yourself sleep next to a highway in a puddle of brownish red fluid you hope is either engine oil or power steering fluid and your expectations aren't met you get a surprise. In this case, it’s a bookmark type of surprise.

I say all this because it has been well over a week since I returned from my trip to New Orleans and I have had time to process the events that took place there. I had the expectation that it would be primarily a work trip that would strain me physically but leave my emotions undisturbed. I got a surprise…a pet giraffe kind of surprise. I was overwhelmed with the poverty but delighted by how Christ’s love was shown in such a dark place. I want to share with you a few of the most important insights I had while in Louisiana.

One of the days down there we had our stuff ganked. That’s New Orleans speak for, “some of our belongings were stolen out of our van while we were working less than 30 feet away.” We were a bit frustrated at first but eventually we came to the conclusion that it was just stuff. Later on I came to a little better conclusion I think. I had been praying for a while that God would allow me to help the poor and minister to them in their need. I had no idea what this would look like. I had no idea that it might look like a guy steeling our IPod, cameras, and cash then pawning them off so he can feed his family.

The situation brought Job 1:21 to mind. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” None of that stuff was really ours. It was God’s to use and control as he pleased. Whenever the Lord takes away it is for a purpose. Sometimes he takes away to lessen our dependence on certain things and increase our dependence on him. I think in this case he might have taken away from us so he could give to someone else. When I think like this I feel like a twisted sort of Robin Hood. Instead of “steal from the rich and give to the poor” it is “The poor steal from the rich cause they need it more.”

Another day we grilled out at our worksite and asked the neighbors to come over and join us. The neighbors were known drug dealers and prostitutes. In fact they were selling drugs and women out of the house we were working next to. While we were eating burnt hot dogs and listen to the neighbors share their Katrina horror stories I started to think of how judge mental and selfish we usually are. We avoid homeless people because they smell bed and always ask for money and forget that they are people created in the image of God who desire to be acknowledged and loved as a part of society just like the rest of us. We see a poor guy on the street corner asking for spare change with a bent up card board sign and we tell him we don’t have anything because he might use the ten bucks we have in our wallet to go buy drugs or booze. But when asked what a person must do to enter the kingdom of heaven Jesus told the rich man to sell all he had and give it to the poor. He didn’t say, “Sell all you have and give it to the poor unless you think they are going to use the money to buy a 40 oz. bottle of cheap beer and get hammered before 9:30 in the morning.” Oh, by the way, Jesus was a homeless guy who had nothing but the sandals on his feet and the clothes on his back. He relied on good people in the community to provide for him. I wonder how long he would have survived in our communities where we avoid poor people like we avoid the Ebola Virus. James 1:27 says, “This is pure undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” How does your “religion” line up?

I say all this at the risk of sounding emergent. I’m not. I don’t mean to preach to anyone besides myself, but as Christians (or maybe just some denominations) sometimes we pride ourselves in having the entire Bible figured out. We know how to do word studies and we study Greek and Hebrew so that we know exactly what the Word meant in its original languages. When it comes to the application and practice of Scripture we fall in line behind the Pharisees and ignore God’s two greatest commandments. Love God, Love others. Simple. We “say” we love God…Remember Matthew 25?

Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?'And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'

Sometimes the best way to love God is by loving his children, especially the poor, rejected, homeless and needy children.

Ok, I am now stepping off my soap box.

So I got a pet Giraffe on my trip to New Orleans. But the Giraffe beat me up a little bit. My heart was broken for the people of that city. But I also learned that poor people don’t just exist in New Orleans. There are people all around me that need my help, my love and more importantly they need to recognize that they have the love of God. I know most of you didn’t go on the trip with me but I hope this gave a glimpse of what happened. We have so much to be grateful for. And yes I know I ended that sentence with a preposition and my wife will want to make me change it. Thanks for reading!

…and go feed a poor person today.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Blue Like Jazz

I have this friend named Zack. He’s not a tee ball coach. Zack and I met when we were freshman in college and we hated each other. We were always in competition with one another…who had the best best friend, who would be a better vice president (I definitely won that competition),who was better at dodge ball. You know the really important stuff. One time we were playing dodge ball against each other and he and his best friend tag teamed my best friend Mike. Zack flat out tackled Mike into the curtain that separated the gym and Frank hit him in the face with a dodge ball while he was on the ground. (Actually I don’t know if he hit him in the face but it makes the story better.) So Zack and I hated each other. That was until I had to work with him.

We were both counselors at Teen Leadership Conference and we even had to sleep on the same floor. I discovered that the reason I hated Zack was because he was exactly like me and in some weird way I thought he would somehow make a better me than me so I had to hate him. Once we got to know each other we became really good friends. We came to an understanding that we really weren’t that different. In fact, after we graduated Zack and I spent two weeks together traveling around the country with our friend Tommy in his white Dodge Neon. When Zack got married I was supposed to be an usher. But I thought the wedding was the next day (who has a wedding on a Friday?) and I missed it. Zack was also a groomsman at my wedding.

My relationship with Zack reminds me of my relationship with Donald Miller. Not that I know him personally or anything but I read his books so that means I know him. When Miller first emerged on the scene with his book Blue Like Jazz I hated him because I heard his book was edgy and had some radical ideas. Jessica bought me the book when I was a Sophomore and I refused to read it. Eventually I read one of his other books, Through Painted Desserts and loved it. In fact, it was that book that inspired us to take a trip around the country. But for some reason I still didn’t like Donald Miller. I was like an old person who refused to listen to rock and roll because they think it will make the worship Satan when all it will really do is make you stomp your foot rhythmically and perhaps bob your head.

Finally, after four years, I decided to bite the bullet and I read Blue Like Jazz. And guess what, I loved it! Just like with my friend Zack I figured out the Donald Miller and I weren’t that different. Sure he has radical ideas and some of the things he says don’t line up perfectly with scripture but neither does everything I say. This book never claimed to be a theology text book. In fact it claims to be just the opposite. The subtitle is , Nonreligious thoughts on Christian Spirituality. If you read this book you probably won’t agree with everything the author has to say or what he does but I guarantee you will agree with one thing, Donald Miller is transparent and real.

There are two types of Christians; those with very simple faith who simply believe and those with un-simple faith who ask all sorts of questions. Donald Miller and I both fall under the un-simple type of faith. I find myself thinking like John the Baptist sometimes. He sends a messenger to Jesus to see if he really is the Messiah. Jesus doesn’t rebuke him, in fact he calls him blessed above all me born of women (Luke 7:28). I question things a lot. In my mind there aren’t too many nicely packed answers in Christianity. I think it boils down to how I don’t understand why a perfect God would send his Son to die for a worthless sinner like me and actually want to have a relationship with me. It doesn’t make sense. So I ask questions. I think that’s why I relate to Donald Miller in this book.

Blue Like Jazz is a story of Miller’s spiritual journey and the questions he asked along the way. He doesn’t pull any punches and he isn’t afraid to talk about normally avoided topics. He’s just a normal guys telling you what he thinks. His writing style is humorous, thought provoking, and simple. All though Blue Like Jazz does need to be read with discernment, it is a great book for thinkers or for people who don’t have it all figured out and don’t mind saying so.

Here are some of my favorite quotes…

“To me, God was more of an idea. It was something like a slot machine, a set of spinning images that doled out rewards based on behavior and, perhaps, chance…If something nice happened to me, I thought it was God, and if something nice didn’t, I went back to the slot machine, knelt down in prayer, and pulled the lever a few more times.”

“There are plenty of things that are true that don’t make sense. I think one of the problems Laura was having was that she wanted God to make sense. He doesn’t. He will make no more sense to me than I will make sense to an ant.”

“Because of sin, because I am self-addicted, living in the wreckage of the fall, my body, my heart, and my affections are prone to love things that kill me.”

“Out of sight, out of mind. I’d forget about it for a month until I cleaned my room, and then I’d lift up a pile of dirty clothes and there would be my Bible, staring up at me like a dead pet.”

“I want you to understand that God has never been nor ever will be invented. He is not a product of any sort of imagination. He does not obey trends…He was answering your prayers because He is a God of compassion. He could have left you to Satan. Don’t complain about the way God answers your prayers. You are still living on an earth that is run by the devil…your problem is not that God is not fulfilling, your problem is that you are spoiled.”

“Passion about nothing is like pouring gasoline in a car without wheels. It isn’t going to lead anybody anywhere.”

“For so much of my life I had been defending Christianity because I thought to admit that we had done something wrong was to discredit the religious system as a whole, but it isn’t a religious system, it is people following Christ, and the important thing to do, the right thing to do, was to apologize for getting in the way of Jesus.”

“I like the idea of loving people just to love them, not to get them to come to church.”

“I will love you like God, because of God, mighted by the power of God. I will stop expecting your love, demanding your love, trading for your love, gaming for your love. I will simply love. I am giving myself to you, and tomorrow I will do it again. I suppose the clock itself will wear thin its time before I am ended at this alter of dying and dying again. God risked himself on me. I will risk myself on you. And together, we will learn to love, and perhaps them, and only then, understand this gravity that drew him, unto us.”

“Too much of our time is spent trying to chart God on a grid, and too little is spent allowing our hearts to feel awe. By reducing Christian Spirituality to formula, we deprive our hearts of wonder.”

“At the end of the day, when I am lying in bed and I know the chances of any of our theology being exactly right are a million to one, I need to know that God has things figured out, that if my math is wrong we are still going to be okay.”

Ok, back to my words and my thoughts. I am going to write a book someday. It will be witty and thought provoking and will probably have a clever title and an eye catching cover and I’m sure no one will read it. I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t read a book by most of the people I know. I think Donald Miller wrote this book because he had a hunch that Christianity was hard for more people than just him. He was right. This book is a great encouragement and I hope you will take time to read it. I mean you took time to read this dumb blog so why not pick up a book by someone who actually knows how to write. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Where did all the facial tissue go?

There is a Puffs kleenex box in my office that has been there since I started at First Baptist almost eight months ago. Most normal people would not give a kleenex box much thought but I have never been one to think myself normal. I don’t use kleenex because when I get a stuffy nose I just wipe it on my sleeve or if I don’t have a sleeve I wipe the snot on my hand and then wipe my hand on the inside of my pocket. It’s not that I don’t like kleenex or that I don’t value it as a better alternative than my sleeve or jean pocket. It’s just that I don’t ever remember that the box is there. When I was growing up we didn’t use kleenex. We used toilet paper because it was already over abundant in our house. I think that’s why I don’t remember that I have the box.

I only mention this because despite the fact that I don’t use it, the box of kleenex is half empty. This is why I gave the kleenex box a second thought (did you know that when you type the word kleenex Microsoft Word automatically capitalizes it? It is really annoying because I don’t want it capitalized because I am not promoting one type of facial tissue over another.) I started to think about where all the kleenex went and started to discover that I only used it when I had a spill in my office as if it were made for the same purpose as its brother the paper towel. One time I spilled an entire can of Mountain Dew on my desk because I was trying to reach a twenty dollar bill that someone had dropped behind my desk. My desk phone is still sticky from the incident. I think I use a third of the kleenex in that box to clean up that one spill.

When you teach a lot everything that happens in your life becomes an illustration for something else that happens in your life. This half empty kleenex box is a great illustration of my current life situation. I have been really tired lately. More so than usual. I get up every morning to lift weights at 6:00 am. And usually I get up with minimal effort but in the last week or so it has been like getting out of a tar pit wearing a weighted vest that is strapped to the bottom of the tar pit…meaning it has been really hard to get out of bed. I have been catching myself fall asleep in the middle of the afternoon like an old man waiting to die. My wife and I both value rest. We try to get close to 8 hours of sleep as often as possible. I get exercise. I eat three meals a day. So why am I so tired? I felt like I was running on half empty. It doesn’t make sense.

At least it didn’t make sense until I saw that half empty box of kleenex. I was being emptied by things that slip past my mind like they don’t even exist. I was tired because things you don’t normally think would make you tired were in fact making me tired. I using my resources to do normal everyday things just like a normal runny nose depletes the source of kleenex. But just like forgotten spills and grease stains from old pizza cut my supply of tissues in half so too did some invisible vacuum suck the energy out of me. When I gave that box of tissues a second thought I also gave my last couple of weeks a second thought. What was making me so tired?

I discovered four things were draining me. Three are real and one I made up. First I found that I was just going through the motions. I woke up, worked out, went to work, came home, ate dinner, watched TV, and went to bed. How boring is that? When your life is a chore, you can’t help but be tired. I wasn’t really living life. I just existed. I was working, but I wasn’t really fulfilling my purpose. My life had for a moment tuned into just a day filled with moments instead of a day filled with opportunities to enjoy what God has created.

Second, I was burdened by a weight that wasn’t just mine to bear. Well, actually several weights. I have been teaching a relationship series at church and some of the research was just wearing me out. The amount of kids in Middle School who are having sex, addicted to pornography, and considering taking their own life just makes me sick (and tired). I have also been talking with some students who are struggling with stealing, homosexuality and drugs. So while I thought I was resting my mind was actually going a million miles an hour. I was working like an ant trying to plug a giant hole in the Hoover dam with a grain of rice. I tried to conceive ways to solve all the problems of the world when I really should have just handed my heavy load of to God and let him carry it.

Third, I found out that my cats were sneaking into my room at night and sticking a straw between my third and fourth rib and literally draining my energy. Yes cats know how to use straws and yes your pocket of energy is located between your third and fourth rib.

Finally, I found that lack of community was draining me. I don’t know if you have ever noticed but when you are tired you tend to avoid people and keep to yourself. This actually makes you more tired. God created us to be social beings. When Adam was alone in the garden of Eden God created him a helper in Eve. God himself is a social being and lives in perfect community with himself. (Which I know sounds impossible but it’s a lot easier I think when you are three persons in one.) He created us so that we could also enjoy community with him and with others. I was tired because I was keeping to myself. I wasn’t sharing. Being selfish makes you really tired.
So what did I do? I filled that kleenex box back up. First, I started living instead of existing. I ask God to help me take advantage of every opportunity I was given. I went outside and ran just so I could enjoy the Sun. Second, I hit golf balls. Everyone needs to unwind sometimes. I think this is especially true in ministry. If you let your head get to full of the problems going on around your head will explode. Hitting golf balls is a really good way to empty your mind and relax because you get so frustrated with how bad you are at golf that you forget about the rest of the stuff you are dealing with. While I hit golf balls I sang old hymns and quoted scripture out loud to remind myself that God is my rest. God is my source and my strength. When I am tired and weak, he is strongest and most glorified.

Third, to take care of my lack of community I went to the local skate park and hung out with guys who wore jeans with a lot of holes in them and smelled like the only shower they had taken all week was in a cloud of weed smoke and a splash of whiskey. I like those guys because they are real. They don’t try to impress you with how righteous they act. I like to hang out at the skate park because I think if Jesus was born today instead of 2000 years ago he probably would have hung out with skateboarders who smelled like weed and their girlfriends instead of tax collectors and prostitutes because they really need Jesus. That’s just my opinion though.

Finally, I took all the straws in my house and destroyed them so my the devil cats can’t puncture my rib cage anymore. I was tired because I was taking myself too seriously and had lost focus of what life is all about. What is draining you? Sometimes it takes a half empty box of kleenex or a random blog about a half empty box of Kleenex to get us back on track. That’s my life illustration for today. Thanks for reading!

I Hate...

The other night I bought Cinnamon Rolls. I don’t know why I did this because I hate one part of making Cinnamon Rolls and that means I hate making them all together. But I sure do love to eat them. I like to open Cinnamon rolls because they make a popping noise that usually scares Jessica and I think makes her pee a little. I also like baking them because I really don’t have to do anything besides sit on the coach and watch basketball and wait for the timer to go off. But the part I really hate, the process that ruins Cinnamon rolls for me every time is the application of the frosting. Frosting a hot batch of Cinnamon might be the most frustrating thing I’ve done this week. I hate it. I can’t ever get frosting into all the little crevasses (hehe…crevasses is a really funny word). This is no new problem. I have hated frosting Cinnamon rolls since I can remember. This time was the worst though because the frosting was all hard and I felt like I was spreading a piece of steak on a roll. It just doesn’t work.

This whole process made think of all the things I hate and I came to the conclusion that the reason for hating these things was really quite ridiculous. So I decided to tell you about some of the things I hate. Some of them are meaningless and I should probably just forget about them but some of the others I will hate until I die. This isn’t meant to be a rant or anything like that. It is just weird to think of how we come to conclusions some times.

1. I hate frosting Cinnamon rolls. (already explained)
2. I hate tying my shoes because eventually they are going to come untied and I will just have to tie them again. So why not let them hang loose?
3. I hate making my bed because I am just going to get in it again in approximately 17 hours. Making it is just a waste of time.
4. I hate cleaning the toilet because every time I finish I immediately have to pee and I destroy my work.
5. I hate running because walking is just easier.
6. I hate walking because the birds get to fly.
7. I hate doing my hair because putting gel in it makes my hand feel like I grabbed onto a big dead slimy fish that smelled like chemicals.
8. I hate having long hair because then I have to do something with it and I already explained that I hate doing my hair and if I don’t do my hair it looks like a mommy bird and her baby birds live in a nest on top of my head.
9. I hate scooping liter boxes because it makes me want to barf every time and because no one has to scoop my liter and I think cats should be self cleaning.
10. I hate my pillow sometimes because it gets to lie in bed all day and I don’t.
11. I hate shaving because by the end of the day I feel my face and realize I didn’t really accomplish anything.
12. I hate broccoli salad because it is made up of three overwhelmingly repulsive things; broccoli, yellow raisins, and a dressing that smells and tastes like puke. (It also makes you puke)
13. I hate Chocolate milk because in grade school I once had a carton that was expired and tasted like band aids.
14. I hate sitting in a chair that isn’t facing the door because I am afraid someone will sneak up behind me a give me a John Wilkes Booth.
15. I hate sleeping furthest away from the door because I want to get in a fight sometimes and I don’t want my wife to get into a fight before I do. Oh yeah and I want to protect my wife from harm too.
16. I hate when worship leaders read the Book of Psalm and put special verbal emphasis on the word ‘Selah’ to make it sound more spiritual because ‘Selah’ is a musical term and isn’t meant to be said out loud. It’s like reading a hymnal and saying “treble cleft” every time you see one.
17. I hate cheese that isn’t melted because I used to eat craft singles as a snack and then I had a bad piece of cheese and it made me violently ill.
18. I hate most Christmas music because most Christmas music has nothing to do with what Christmas is all about.
19. I hate leftovers because when they sit in the fridge they get all solid and weird looking. They kind of look like the stuff that Orks emerge from in Lord of the Rings and who wants to eat that?
20. I hate Michigan U-turns because who wants to drive in the opposite direction of where they are going in order to get where they are going.
21. I hate fanny packs because the people who wear them rarely wear them on their fannys.
22. I hate roller-skating (not rollerblading) because it reminds me of when I used to like the song “Don’t go chasing Waterfalls” by TLC. I used to belt that song at the top of my lungs at roller-skating parties in fourth grade.
I hate day planners because they are a conspiracy by boring people to rid the world of spontaneity and fun.
24. I hate Microsoft Excel because it makes me feel like an idiot every time I use it.
25. I hate the Loop on the top of the back pleat on button-down shirts because no one knows what it is used for and nobody even knows what it’s actually called.
26. I hate that I hate so many dumb things for so many dumb reasons.

And the list goes on and on. It is weird how past experiences and presuppositions impact how we make decisions and how we feel. Since making this list I have been informed of an easier way to frost cinnamon rolls. You take the frosting and put it on the oven while the rolls are baking so that it isn’t hard anymore. Then you just take a spoon full, or a dollop if you will, and place one on each roll. Then the frosting flows down the roll like a river flowing down the side of a mountain filling in all the crevasses (hehe…still funny) and killing all the tiny mountain dwellers trying to find gold in a small stream. Don’t judge me because I was honest about the things that bother me. You all know you have your own little quirks. So what irks you? Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Booth Didn't Stop Me...

I don’t particularly like the theatre. I think it has something to do with guys wearing makeup and fake stairs on the set that go to nowhere. (Any path that goes nowhere frustrates me) It might also have something to do with the fact that I am an Abraham Lincoln fan and Abraham Lincoln was shot in a theatre. Every time I go to the theatre and hear a loud noise I instinctively look behind me to make sure a relative of John Wilkes Booth didn’t just try to shoot me in the head.

Despite my dislike of most theatre productions I will occasionally see one that I like. Last Friday, Jessica and I went to go see a production of “All Shook Up” at Jimtown High School. A student from the youth group was performing so despite my hesitation we went. I was hesitant to go for a couple of reasons. First, as I have already explained, I don’t like the theatre. Second, this was a musical. That makes it even worse than just a regular play because the music is usually so loud I can’t hear John Wilkes Booth XXVI sneak up behind me. Third, it was a High School musical. That usually means people who don’t really have any talent try to sing, dance and act. And when you go to a musical at a High School you always get the song “We’re all in this together” stuck in your head for some reason. Fourth, I was hesitant to go because I was feeling a little gaseous and that doesn’t bode well for confined areas with lots of people around.

I was pleasantly surprised that this High School actually had some talented singers who acted and danced. The show, although very long, was actually very good. It made me laugh, tap my foot, sing along and at times it made me a bit uncomfortable. The musical was a collection of songs by Elvis that included Jail House Rock, Heartbreak Hotel, One Night With You, Blue Suede shoes, and Burning Love. All these songs left me with the impression that they just don’t make music like they used to. It also made me want to buy leather jackets and a West Coast Chopper for Jessica and I to ride off into the sun on as we belted out “Love Me Tender” at the top of our lungs.

The basic premise of the story is that Chad, a hip-swiveling, guitar-playing roustabout, is released from prison and comes to a small quiet town with music in his soul and dancing in his feet. Apparently Chad has Super powers and can fix broken juke boxes with his mind and make people fall in love at the drop of a hat. Chad’s arrival in the town causes an uproar because a dictator-esk mayor won’t let anyone in her town dance, fall in love, neck (that means make out, by the way, I like that rule), swivel their hips, or let their hair stand more than 3 centimeters off their head. The rest of the play consists of people finding joy in life again and replacing a list of rules for love. Even the mean old mayor falls in love in the end. My favorite character was Dennis. He looked like a guy who watched the Weather Channel a lot and knew too much about different types of wood. I guess the only reason I liked him was because he talked funny and was always the underdog but still somehow managed to get a girl in the end.

At intermission Jessica and I sat and drank pop and at chips we paid way too much for as we talked about how we wish we were born in a different era so we could listen to oldies all the time and roll our pant legs up and not get laughed at. We also noticed all the high school kids around. Is it just me or did high school students get a lot younger and more immature since I’ve my days at Rockford High? Maybe I was just as immature and small but thought I was big and cool. And what is up with guys wearing tight pants that they tuck into their brightly colored high tops? Who started that fashion? I think some really popular guy had all his clothes in the wash one morning so he had to borrow his sisters pants, his brothers shoes (his brother who happened to be Ronald McDonald and had an extra pair of size 24 neon colored clown shoes lying around), and then went to Pac Sun before school to buy a pink v-neck t-shirt that wouldn’t fit my nephew Atreyu that weighs less than 8 pounds. That’s probably how it started.

After intermission the musical started to get a little weird. The main character, Chad, fell in love with a guy named Ed who wasn’t really a guy at all but a girl named Natalie who was trying to win the affection of Chad by dressing like a guy and coloring a fake beard on her face. I don’t know why you would dress up like a guy to do that but it worked out pretty well for her. Next, the Stalin-like Mayor had an electric guitar duel with Chad while she wore a red kilt and angels and demons dressed like the Fonz danced around and taunted each other. To make things worse they were dueling with guitars that had no strings on them and to a song that didn’t have a guitar part to it. (Plus they mimicked an “E” chord the whole time and everyone knows you don’t have a guitar duel when you can only play one chord.)

However, the musical redeemed itself in the end when everyone who was in love married a person they weren’t pursuing but obviously belonged with. The whole thing was a bizarre, musically sweet rendition of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night made that much better by a guy in the dance crew who didn’t really know what he was doing but got on stage and danced like an old man made completely out of wood and a little bit of rubber because his girlfriend told him too. (That was the guy I watched when I got bored with the rest of the production.) If you want a full review of the play you can look it up on Wikipedia. Oh yeah, and no one tried to sneak in to the theatre and shoot the president…or me for that matter. Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 8, 2010

I Realized...

I realized a few things today. First I realized that having left over, flat Mountain Dew for breakfast with no food in your stomach before you go lifting is a bad idea. Second, I realized that most of the eighth graders I know would trade all of their life’s savings, their parent’s house, their neighbor’s dog, and their best friend’s kidney and left big toe for one Monster. Third, I realized that I hadn’t updated my blog in a week. I realized this because one of my friends and fellow blogie (one who blogs) told me that when he tried to view my blog it freaked out and directed him to a hundred different websites. I had a similar experience when I went to check out the problem except instead of sending me to a different website my computer started yelling at me in different languages and shot quarters out of the CD drive at my face! (Okay, that last part might be an exaggeration…)Anyways, I’m sorry if any of you experienced technical difficulties when trying to access this page. They should all be fixed now.

The reason I haven’t updated my blog in a while is because I haven’t been feeling too creative lately. I drove the short bus for the school two days last week and I think when you drive the short bus you get uncreative, start to wear sweat pants in public places, listen to too much talk radio, and start stopping at rail road crossings for no reason… even when you are jogging. (Short Bus Driving effects may vary in severity from person to person.) But I haven’t driven the short bus for like four or five days now so I think my creative juices are starting to flow. (What are creative juices? Can you drink them? Do they smell bad?)

Jessica and I went to visit my sister and brother-in-law again in Chicago. Okay, we really went to visit their son Atreyu but it was nice to see all of them in the mean time. And since we were headed to Chicago we decided to get lost twice just for traditions sake. I know what question you are all dying to ask so I’ll go ahead and answer it for you. No, Atreyu has not started riding animals yet nor has he started to perfect his shot from behind the ark. In fact, he just sits there and eats, poops, farts, burps, sleeps, and gets the hiccups. So basically he has the life every man on the face of the planet wishes they had. He doesn’t even have to change his own clothes. Man, was I so jealous. So on Saturday when Atreyu was sleeping, farting, eating pooping, burping, and getting the hiccups the rest of us went shopping. Or I should say the girls went shopping and I followed them around from store to store like a lost puppy who was hoping someone walked him past a store that sold something with at least a hint of masculinity. That happened as soon as soon as we stopped for lunch in the food quart.

You see every time I go to Chicago I like to get an authentic slice of Chicago style pizza. So, obviously my food quart choice was Sbarro’s. (Thank you Michael Scott) After the pizza the wandering continued. I realized that shopping was invented for women. For those of you guys who think you like shopping; you’re wrong. You like buying things. Shopping is not buying things. Shopping is wandering around a mall wishing you could buy things. While the ladies shopped I had a good time people watching. I saw a guy with a huge mullet (undoubtedly coming from a wrestling tournament), two girls wearing full soccer gear (seriously, couldn’t they wait to go to the mall when they weren’t covered in grass stains and girl sweat? And where do you play soccer outside in early march when there is still snow on the ground?), and a guy wearing his pants around his knees and carrying more chains around his neck than all the dogs in West Virginian combined. After the mall we returned to my sister’s house and played Mexican trains until dinner.

After dinner we headed down stairs for the concert. When I say concert I mean six adults playing Sing Star and Rock Band. When our family gets together we do several embarrassing things but to the outside world the most embarrassing has to be when we try to sing and play instruments together. We started off slow with a few tunes by Lifehouse and Whitney Houston but the party really got started when we created a playlist of Brittany Spears, M.C. Hammer, and Vanilla Ice. I realized two things that night. First, the 80’s were not kind to Whitney and her hair. Second, a tone deaf, mute, Amish guy who has never heard any music besides hymns in his whole life could rap better than me; but nobody can play Bon Jovi’s ‘Dead or Alive’ on a fake plastic guitar with their eyes closed better than I can.

So my weekend of realizations wasn’t long but it was fun. And while I was driving back to Elkhart without getting lost I had one more realization. What you do with the time you have with your family doesn’t matter all that much because people watching, shopping, and doing embarrassing things with your family is a whole lot better than people watching, shopping, and doing embarrassing things without them. We worry too much about having some fantastic event planned for when we have company and we forget that the reason the company wants to come over in the first place is so they can just spend time with us. Don’t let planned events ruin quality time and cherish every moment you get to spend with those you love because you can’t ever get them back. Well that’s enough realizing for one blog. I’m gonna go buy a Mountain Dew with the quarters my computer gave me. (Drinking Mountain Dew on a full stomach before you do nothing is a good idea…but that’s not a realization. It’s just common sense.)Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 1, 2010


Secondhand Jesus
Trading Rumors of God for a first hand Faith
By: Glenn Packiam

I read a lot of books. That might make me sound like a really smart person but don’t be deceived, I’m not a really smart person. I am a person who likes to look really smart so I buy a lot of books and put them on my book shelves. But I’m not a wasteful person so when I spend the money to buy books and put them on my shelf to make me look smart I also read them. When I go into a book store I am like a kid in a toy store who passes up the plain old brown football for the Nerf gun that has 64 triggers, can shoot underwater, is painted bright orange with lightning bolts and can also make you coffee and fix you breakfast. I only want the books that are bright and shiny and have interesting covers. I just finished reading Secondhand Jesus by Glenn Packiam. I don’t know how this book got on my shelf. It doesn’t have a flashy cover or a super clever title so the reason I picked it up and started reading it is beyond my comprehension. I have a running theory. I believe that a really boring person came in my office and thought that my books were to brightly colored so he added a dull one to the bunch to balance out the excitement.

My favorite books are those that I argue against. I find that I grow the most when I read books that cause me to think or cause me to rethink and retest by belief structure. They are covered in my own hand writing where I argue against the writer and some hair brained idea presented in the text. Secondhand Jesus is a bit safe for my liking. Safe like going skateboarding with two matresses strapped to your body for protection. Sure you don't get hurt, but you can't move enough to learn any new tricks either. The author didn’t cause me to stretch or to consider a way of thinking other than my own. Usually I read a book in a week or less but this one took me three to finish because I kept falling asleep reading it. If you are looking for a book that confirms what you already know or believe then I would defiantly give it a read but if you are looking to grow and test your faith look elsewhere.

In this book, Glenn Packiam unpacks the idea that most Christians accept what they hear from the pulpit or other books as truth and never really discover God on their own. He uses several examples concerning the Ark of the Covenant to show that some have accepted rumors of God as truth. The idea and theme of this book is a good one, Christians do need to seek and understand God for themselves, but the book seems a little repetitive and some of the evidence he uses to prove his point is sketchy at best.

In one chapter the author combats the rumor that God is please with our goodness. He uses a passage of Scripture from 1 Samuel 6 where God slaughtered a whole mess of guys because they looked in the Ark to prove his point. Packiam has this to say about why the men died, “Now, here’s the punch: To lift the cover of the Ark of the Covenant is to stare the law of God in the face without the cover of blood. It is to say that you are holy enough, good enough, to handle God’s law without the mercy of God’s forgiveness or the atoning power of the blood.” (This is where I started writing in by book and yelling at the author.)This verse preaches really well but adds some facts that just aren’t there. First of all, we don’t know that the Ten Commandments were the only thing in the Ark so how do we know they were opening it just to look at the law? Second, God has killed lots of people for touching the Ark who didn’t even try to look inside it. I understand that no one was, is, or ever will be good enough to fulfill the whole law, but this section of scripture says nothing about that. It says God struck down men because they tried to look inside the Ark. They died because they directly disobeyed God’s commandments concerning how to handle the Ark. (Read Numbers 4, specifically verse 15 where God tells them a certain family is to carry it a certain way so that no one else touches the Holy objects and dies.) The men who carried the Ark weren’t good enough on their own to approach God or his law either but they didn’t die. This part of the book is really a stretch.

I tried to think of some good quotes from this book that would be helpful to others but all the ones I came up with were quotes Packiam took from other books by other authors. This book as some cool stories about what happened in his church and the author writes some beautiful worship songs but you can get the gist of his message by reading Acts 17:10-12 (About the Bereans and their desire to know God’s Word personally) in combination with the works of C.S. Lewis (Particularly The Problem of Pain, The Weight of Glory, and Mere Christianity which are quoted numerous times in Secondhand Jesus.)After you get done with those go to a Christian book store and pick out the brightest colored book you can find and read it with discernment. I think the experience will be extremely valuable for you. While you do that I will make sure that sneaky boring guy doesn’t put anymore ‘safe’ books on my shelf. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Babies Smell Good

There were approximately 216,000 babies born yesterday. That’s 150 babies every minute. (And because of that fact I bought 1000 shares of Huggies’ stock and I am retiring tomorrow.) Only one of those 216,000 babies born was important. I know some people will argue over this point but those people can go write their own blog…Okay, all the rest of the babies were important too and every human life is equally valuable in God’s eyes. I’m not disputing that but only one can be the best baby born on February 23, 2010 and that baby is my nephew.

Atreyu Douglas White was born at 6:20 in the morning yesterday. Shortly thereafter he dunked his first basketball and rode his first bull. He is the adopted son of my sister Kara and brother in law Chad. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Atreyu? Where did that come from?” I thought the exact same thing. The name actually comes from a movie that was a favorite of mine and my two siblings when we were kids, “The Neverending Story”. (The name of this movie never made any sense to me for two reasons. First, the movie ended so obviously it was never ending. Second, there was a sequel. How can there be a sequel to a story that doesn’t end?) Anyways, Atreyu is the main character who rides on that weird looking albino flying dog thing. So naturally we expect my nephew to grow up and have the ability to control animals with his mind, talk to animals, and ride anything that moves without a saddle. (Which he has already proven true by riding that bull.) I also expect to call him Trey, which means eventually he will play basketball for Michigan State and knock down three pointers with his eyes closed.

Jessica and I left after work last night to drive over to Hobart, Indiana where Atreyu was born. This means we had to drive towards Chicago…and every time we drive towards Chicago something goes wrong. This time we were driving down IN-2 and noticed a flock of police cars flying past us. (Yes, police officers travel in flocks, not packs.) They were headed toward an accident scene further up the road. When we approached the accident we realized that there were actually several flocks of police cars. (Actually they would be called a gaggle at this point because they were no longer flying.) I speculate that a gas truck exploded and created a huge crater in the ground where the police found a massive oil field and decided to keep the oil to themselves so the surrounded the crater with their cars. Needless to say, due to the crater the road was closed and we had to find another way around. So we traveled into the wilderness that is northern Indiana. I swear we passed sights that were used in the filming of “Deliverance”. I even saw a guy sitting on a tree branch playing the dueling banjos song by himself.

Somewhere along the way I couldn’t help but thinking, “My camera is being shipped from Chicago to Elkhart right now. I bet that UPS truck I just passed is carrying my camera. That’s ironic.” Eventually we worked our way out of the deep south and found IN-2 again. After we retrieved dinner from McDonalds (by the way Shamrock shakes are back and they are delicious) we got lost…but only for like 5 minutes. When we finally made it to the hospital I decided I was never traveling toward Chicago coming from the west again.

We were ushered up to Atreyu’s room by my brother in law and I got to hold my nephew for the first time. Come to think of it, that was the first time I had ever held a new born. If you have never held a new born before let me tell what it’s like. You hold them kind of like you hold a very expensive vase that you got for your wedding from a guy that has more money than he knows what to do with. You hold them tight but not too tight because like that vase, they are the most valuable thing you have ever touched. And while you hold them you look at it you think, “Wow! This was created by the most imaginative and wonderful artist ever!” You slowly start to realize that the vase you once held isn’t that valuable after all. The most valuable things in life are the people you love and the God who created them. You also realize that babies smell really good…until they poop their pants.

As a newlywed holding my first nephew in my arms I started to understand the great privilege and great responsibility it is to father a child. I also saw the look on my sister’s and brother in law’s face as they held their child. It was a mix of excitement, fatigue, and “Whoa…I’m a parent…what do I do now?” It gave me a greater appreciation for my parents. I am convinced that no couple in the history of the world is or was ever completely ready for parenthood. Despite this my parents made the choice to trust God with their children and raise them has He commanded. That choice created a godly legacy that gathered around a bassinet last night and marveled at the new addition to our family. Thank you Mom and Dad for your obedience to our heavenly father and His Word.

After we all took our turn talking to Atreyu in that annoying but appropriate baby voice and Yvonne (my other sister) took 5,486,653 pictures of his tiny baby feet, we all headed for our various sleeping facilities. Jessica and I had to drive back to Elkhart. That means that we had another opportunity to get lost. But we were smart this time. We took the toll road the whole way home instead of saving the $3.25 and taking the winding back roads that always get us lost.

Despite a four hour round trip and getting lost a couple times I came to one positive conclusion; Life is sacred and valuable. Okay, maybe I came to more than one conclusion but that was the most important one. The others include; holding a 7 pound baby for an extended period of time is a great workout, baby poop is made up of 90% pine tar and 10% digested food, and baby’s heads are shaped funny because their skull bones haven’t developed yet. I love Atreyu and can’t wait to teach him how to wrestle, burp, fart, snowboard, gut a deer, love bacon, eat more pizza than is advisable in one sitting, and to write sweet blogs. Thanks for reading!