Monday, April 27, 2015

Look Up!

My kids play soccer. We could have opted for an inside sport, but then there's no chance of watching your kids play in the rain while you freeze on the sidelines. Who wants that?

Is that mud in our van ever going to come out? Probably not, but at least we watched 3 scoreless games. Hooray soccer!

Have you ever seen a litter of kittens all go after the same ball of yarn? If so, you know what watching 7 and 8-year old girls looks like. As they get older, it looks pretty much the same, just with less cute.

One of the things we start talking to all the players about, early and often, is to keep their heads up. A skill they must learn is how to kick the ball without looking at the ball. They can get so focused on kicking the ball in front of them that they become oblivious to everything else around them. Look up!

But once they learn how to maintain control of the ball while keeping their heads up, the game changes. They can see where the opposition is coming from. They can see where their help will come from. They can see a better view of what is happening all around them.

It changes the game.

I find myself taking this advice and using it in my daily life. Let's be honest about this. Life can often be uncomfortable. It can leave you messy and with some scarring. Even as we age, life will treat us pretty much the same way life always has.

There is a truth to life that we teach our children early and often. Look up. When we take our gaze off of what we are doing, the game changes. We can see better where the opposition is coming from. We can look around for where our help is coming from. We get a better view of what is happening all around us.

Indeed, the game changes.

When we ask where our help will come from, we can echo the Psalmist, "My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." ~Psalm 121:2

Friday, April 10, 2015

Dad: A Shopping Experience

Who do you call on when the wife and mother are sick and the family still needs to eat?

Normally I'd say my good friend Papa John. But we'd already called him. The illness lingered on and the children demanded to be fed more than once in a week's time. (Remind me to write about this demanding entitled generation, wanting to eat every single day.)

So anyway, back to the original question. Who do you call when the wife is sick and stuff still needs to be done? That's right! You call the dad!

So I decided to go grocery shopping. I could have made the list myself, but my wife thought I might not always make the best decisions. I'm not sure what she's talking about. Keebler is a quality product, am I right?

List in hand, I trudged alone into the aisled wilderness.

And I wandered.

And wandered...

Recognizing products that were often found in my kitchen, I threw them into my cart. Was there backtracking due to a poorly organized list? Maybe. But don't be so judgmental. I didn't see you out there.

Since we're all well-mannered, educated folk, let me ask you a question or two. Why is there no Ziti in this place? Mini-ziti?!? Was there market research done to find out that people did not like normal sized ziti? Check it out! I can fit five times as many mini ziti in my mouth at one time!

Is it bad that I was much more capable of finding the type of cookies I desired than the type of fruit my wife wanted me to get? On second thought, don't answer that.

I thought I was doing pretty good on time until I checked out and looked at the big clock on the wall. I spent over 2 hours getting this food?!? And we're just gonna eat it and have to come back again next week?!? 

I know I may be a bit early in the season for thanking my wife for being a great wife and mom. But if grocery shopping were the only thing she had to do each week, I'd be thankful for her doing it.

And don't even get me started on the cooking that needs to be done. We're doing this every day now?

Monday, April 6, 2015

80 Years Young

The church I am a part of, Winona Lake Free Methodist, turns 80 this year. We're having a big celebration on April 26. Learning more and more about this church has me thinking about legacy.

I don't remember every moment in my life. Some moments are quite foggy. But three moments stand out with clarity. If you're counting my kids, then you know where I'm going. And at the risk of embarrassing my teenager at just the very mention of baby pictures, I'll tell you that’s exactly what I’m thinking of.

Naked they all came from the womb. There was wiggling and noises and Jennifer and I were suddenly thrust into new roles: Parents! It was a great moment, to be repeated twice more, when I would hold a newborn baby that God had given to me.

In those moments, I remember having a lot of hopes for my children. I remember having dreams of what they would become. Looking back, I know there was no way I could have predicted what Jacie would become 13 years later. Nor did I see what Luke and Jerica would be like. (In case you're wondering, I'm proud of all three of my children.)

This is the way it is when we give birth to anything. We can have a vision for it, be it a child, a new business, a piece of art, etc. But by nature or nurture, things have a way of growing into something we could not have foreseen.

Eighty years ago, some people got together and decided a Free Methodist Church was needed in Winona Lake. I wasn't a part of those conversations. But I imagine they had a vision. I am certain they had a plan. Perhaps it was for one year, maybe five. They had hopes for what would happen in and through this church.

I imagine some things happened like they hoped. Other turns brought changes they would not have originally desired. That's how our lives go as individuals, so we should not be surprised that is how the life of a church works as well.

As I make personal decisions, I like to remind myself that each choice is slowly building my legacy. It is one reason I depend on God to lead me in my choices. So it goes with the church as well. I believe God has blessed many leaders of WLFMC through eighty years. The building has changed several times. The leadership has changed many times over. Those sitting in the pews have come and gone, some to eternity. I believe God will continue to bless, as we depend on Him to lead us in our choices.

Happy 80th Birthday, Winona Lake Free Methodist Church!
 Here's trusting God with the next eighty.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Father Dark

I want to be fair here. I know things are not always as simple as they seem.

But I want to be fair. Most things are not as complicated as we make them out to be.

I received a book from my friends at SpeakEasy blogging. They often have books that stretch me. To be honest, I disagree with much of their theology, and Father Dark by Steven L. Case was no different.

This novel centers around a dark angel. Only because I dislike spoilers will I not go into more details about how far off track I think this book goes.

If this were all that bothered me about this book, I could look past it. After all, fiction can be fun. But....

This book has profanity. Not just the one or two examples used by some authors to show they are relevant or cool, or whatever reason Christian authors choose to grab low hanging fruit.

This book has a lot of profanity. Much of it appears to have no purpose except to remind you the author knows profanity. For those who haven't heard me rant about profanity in books, let me begin by saying I agree with whomever it is who said that profanity shows a lack of vocabulary and creativity.

And let me conclude that I do not think it adds anything to the story, does not make characters seem grittier or more like real life.

What bothers me the most is where this book came from. I first agreed to review the book because I recognized the author's name as someone from the youth ministry world. Steven Case has written several youth ministry ideas books. Writing a novel this vulgar does not, obviously, make those ideas less usable. But I do have to wonder about how he interacts with teenagers.

Because what we believe has a way of showing up in how we live. Even when we're writing fiction.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Easter is Different

Here is what I find interesting. As Christians, we talk about Christmas in December, but that’s about it. To hear a lesson in July about the baby Jesus is like listening to Christmas music in January – nobody wants to hear about it anymore. It’s not that we don’t believe the story, but we basically read about it once a year.

But Easter is different. As Christians, we talk about the resurrection story of Jesus all year long. Why? Because Jesus dying for our sins, and rising again (showing He had power over death) is the whole reason we are who we are. Paul wrote that without Jesus rising from the dead, we have nothing and our religion is pointless.

Go ahead. Say those words out loud.



Say those words out loud while considering what it is you really believe. I can't speak definitively for you, but I know how I feel about things I believe. I know that I certainly don't want anyone considering my beliefs to be worthless or a waste of time.

Think about those words, pointless and meaningless and nothing, as you celebrate Easter this Sunday. If all you worship is a basket and a bunny, then maybe those words won't bother you.

But I don't worship a basket or a bunny. I worship God, sent His Son, Jesus, to die for my sins. I believe Jesus rose again, on the day I now celebrate as Easter.

The story is incredible. It can be incredibly hard to believe. But I do.

That makes Easter different.

Monday, March 30, 2015

This is Who We Are

I'm leading my college ministry group through a fantastic book right now. It's called Think, Act, Be Like Jesus by Randy Frazee. He connects what we think to how we act and the outcome is a lifelong virtue. Here's the latest section our group covered.

Who am I? Can you describe yourself in 5 words? Perhaps you've been asked that question before. If you're like me, your answers have varied, depending on whom you were with, how you were feeling about your life, or what you had for lunch that day.

Slightly different question: which description of whom we are in Christ means the most to you? (a child, a temple, a new creation, a member of the body of Christ, a citizen in Heaven, etc.)

How does this description change how you approach each day?

I believe how we see ourselves impacts everything else; how we live our lives, how we treat one another. If we live fully in God’s grace, we’ll be the most willing to pass that grace around. If we try to accomplish things on our own, we’ll be quicker to expect others to work as hard as we do.

“In view of God’s mercy…” As we consider this concept, we are left with an obvious response of total surrender to God’s will. He should so capture our hearts for today and forever that we are compelled to give up our lives for Him – from love, not duty; for worship, not works.” Pg122

Out of an understanding of who we are in Christ, our response should come naturally.

The virtue that comes from understanding who we are and giving it all to God is hope. We hope that everything God has promised will come true. We hope that Heaven lives up to the billing. We hope that it will all be worth it. Because, quite frankly, we’re just as smart and talented as others who appear to succeed in this life. So if this life were all we were living for, we’d like to show them.

But we know it’s not. We have a greater hope. We believe there is more than what we see right now. When we say ‘hope’, it’s not a last-ditch effort at something because we were incapable of anything else. We say ‘hope’, it is resting on a firm foundation, a ground that has been tested and proved, long before we came on the scene. We say ‘hope’ with purpose.

That's who we are.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

This is What You Just Put In Your Mouth?

This is the book my wife will never read. She would prefer to remain blissfully unaware. This Is What You Just Put In Your Mouth? is a book about what's really inside everyday products. As I read it, it doesn't sound like Patrick Di Justo has an agenda or a vendetta for anyone.

He just wanted to know. A curious mind.

But the moment I told my wife that A-1 steak sauce was one of the products listed, she said emphatically, 'Don't ruin A-1 for me.' So we'll keep her out of this. But each chapter has a list of the ingredients and what they do, offer or cause.

Then there's the back story on each investigative search. This was the part of each chapter I most looked forward to, because this was where the fun was. When companies embraced what they were, or tried to hide what they used. Ahh, you have to love investigative journalism. Sometime the better stry isn't what you learned, but how you learned it.

In the end, I don't know that it will change much of what I eat, or don't eat. I'm just a curious mind.

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I received this book from my good friends at Blogging for Books for this review. You can pick up a copy of it here