Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Day After Christmas

I think I have enjoyed Christmas more than ever this year. Sometimes the Christmas hype and expectation yield disappointment when it’s all over. But today, it seems different.

We have worshipped more this year. At least the worship has seemed more meaningful. As we gathered at with our church on Sunday, we experienced the Lord’s presence through music, prayer and confession, his word and Holy Communion. On Christmas Eve, again we turned our hearts to the Lord in a quiet, contemplative way. I think that we all left the worship gathering with Jesus on our hearts and minds.

We also received a special offering that night. This is the first year we have taken up a Christmas offering. Although I have not yet heard how much we collected, the money will go to Living Water, Amani Baby Cottage, Miracle House, and church planting. It is exciting to me to think about Christmas giving that changes the world.

Jesus came to change the world. He invites us to be part of the movement. The more radically we cooperate with his kingdom’s coming, the more radically the world is changed. God is bringing all things under the headship of Christ.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fixing Baseball

Last week the Mitchell report named dozens of major league baseball players for steroid use. Many of the superstar players found their names on the list. It almost read like a who’s who of baseball.

The whole culture of the sport seems to encourage the use of illegal steroids. Some players claimed they had doctors’ prescriptions for the drugs. Some may have taken supplements, not knowing that they were illegal. They certainly all fell prey to the “everybody’s doing it” attitude. To be somebody in baseball, you had to bend the rules.

Then they want to talk about it on Capitol Hill. It always amazes me when the U.S. Congress gets involved in baseball. What stake do they have in the sport? Well, for generations they have given Major League Baseball a non-competitive playing field. While leaving other sports subject to the open market, the law gives monopoly status to pro baseball. There are no leagues to compete with Major League Baseball. Periodically, congress renews that status.

Other pro sports are certainly not free from corruption, but they are subject to competition. The ABA gave the NBA a run for their money. The AFL also challenged the NFL. Both of those alternate leagues eventually merged with the older sports associations, but maybe they helped make the sports better.

While congress demands that baseball get cleaned up, they ought to eliminate the sport’s special status. Maybe then Major League Baseball would clean up its act. I wonder if fans would support a system where the athletes were all drug-free. They may see fewer homeruns, but they would also see fewer asterisks in the books.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

An Army at the Parade

Saturday was everything I could have hoped for. Well, I could have hoped for snow. But everything else was incredible. The people of Crossroads turned out en mass to serve the community of Stokesdale. And while we were working, we were having a great time!

We helped turn the Stokesdale Holiday Parade into an even bigger celebration. Sharing God’s love is a whole lot of fun. We gave away 700 hot dogs, lots of coffee, hot chocolate and desserts. People kept trying to pay for the food, and we kept explaining that we just wanted to share God’s love with them.

Our band played for a couple of hours before the parade, having a great time. We even played a set after the parade was over.

But during the parade, we provided the play-by-play for the floats as they passed by. Before the parade, we asked for info on all entries. Then from the stage, two of our folks did the Katie Couric, Matt Lauer routine. They added a new element of life to the whole event.

In fact, they did such a good job, they have been invited to do the same thing for a springtime parade nearby. All the responses we have received have been very encouraging.

I am so glad that our people served with such enthusiasm. We owe a debt of thanks to the people who built the stage, ran the sound, played the music, bought the food, prepared the food, served the food, welcomed the crowd, and announced the parade.

May Jesus be glorified as we share his love. May the songs we sang and the conversations we had give glory to him.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Here Comes the Parade!

The Stokesdale Christmas Parade is always just a blast! We enjoy giving to our community and serving them in the name of Jesus. We have had entries in the parade since 1999, but last year we decided to do something different. Every year we had spent hours in the parade lineup, waiting for parade time. We were cold, hungry, and looking for something to do. So last year we gave out food and hot drinks, and we gave a free concert for anyone who wanted to listen. It was our way of sharing kindness with Stokesdale.

As the floats went by our sound stage last year, we realized that we could announce the floats as they came past. We just didn’t know what to say. We also realized that nobody really knew anything about the floats or their organizations.

This year we worked with the Stokesdale parade committee to get the info. Beginning last week organizations have been calling and emailing us with all the information they want announced at the parade.

This week we have dozens of people working to get ready for the parade on Saturday, Dec. 8. Yesterday we picked up the massive sound system, and tonight we will figure out how it works. Others are working with our food give-away, where we will hand out hot dogs, coffee, hot chocolate and desserts. Our band has been eagerly anticipating our concert at noon, playing until the parade steps off at 2 p.m.

This year we have some exciting new elements at the parade. Our stage will be set up at the Stokesdale Fire Station, just across from the main downtown storefronts. For the first time, the parade will have each entry announced as it passes by. A couple of Crossroads folks are gathering info on all the parade entries and, with appropriate humor and banter, will describe the entries as they pass the stage.

We are also giving out coffee with a purpose. The Land of a Thousand Hills coffee company sells coffee grown in Rwanda. By using this coffee, we are supporting business in this developing nation, blessing the coffee workers and helping build their local economy.

This has already been fun. See you Saturday!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Plush Toy Blasphemy

If it had been April 1, I could have dismissed it. It had to be a joke. A British teacher at a private school in Sudan allowed her 7-year-old students to name a teddy bear, “Muhammad.” Now she may face criminal prosecution.

The boy who made the suggestion was named Muhammad. He wasn’t thinking about the Islamic prophet at all. Apparently most of the students, 90 percent of whom are Muslim, did not object to the name.

I guess what really bothers me is the tendency in religion to focus on the things that are bearly significant. Never mind that the slave trade is destroying lives in Sudan, or that our children don’t recognize blasphemy when they hear it. We can’t have a teddy bear with a prophet’s name.

In our own country, religious people are all upset that some retailers won’t wish customers a “Merry Christmas.” I get annoyed with political correctness, too. But it doesn’t make sense to get angry with worldly people because they don’t want to identify with Christ. Yes, Christmas has become way too commercial. There’s not enough Jesus in the season. But are people really buying the latest gadgets and toys in the name of Jesus, anyway?

If Jesus really came to change the world, then his followers might put their efforts into something world-changing. Can you imagine the person whose life was changed because a cashier said, “Merry Christmas,” instead of, “Happy Holidays”? Maybe it could happen. But what if people took some of that “Christmas money” and invested it in micro-businesses in a third world country, or in an AIDS orphanage in Africa, or in a clean water project in a small village? What if we supported efforts to bring justice to oppressed peasants struggling with a corrupt regime?

Of course it is easier for me to tell other people to change than it is for me to begin living my own faith in a more meaningful way.

But think of how wonderful the world will be when no one ever says, “Happy Holidays,” and there are no teddy bears named Muhammad.

Monday, November 26, 2007

My Favorite Toys

I love to play with words. I like to think of strange words combinations, explore etymologies, make puns and find inconsistencies in the English language.

Have you ever noticed the many words we find only in a negative form? A comment may be inane, but has anyone ever praised you for being ane? Workers get disgruntled, but never seem to get gruntled. A tie or a suit may be nondescript, but would you want to wear something descript?

One of my favorite oddities is that you drive on a parkway but park on a driveway. Although you can slow up and slow down, you can speed up, but you never speed down.

Names also provide a playground for fun and creativity. Consider Emma Tate is known by all her friends as a copycat. How about the guy named Ben Moore who has lost weight?

The list of rules at the skating rink in Eden, NC used to say, “No horseplay aloud.” Just do it quietly.

I’m eager to see a model of efficiency called a “wait loss” program.

God has blessed us with words, the gift of language. He reveals himself to us through his written word, and the Word who took on flesh and dwelt among us.

I love playing with words. As long as I have my wits, no one can take away my toys.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Old and New Blogs

I’ve been reading Thoreau’s Walden. It’s one of those books you hear about all the time but you have never read. It sounds like a blog from the 1840s. He rails about the high prices of things, and he calls for more simplicity in life. He goes into detail about people and circumstances that seem insignificant to me.

But that’s how blogs are. We can ramble on and not worry abut wasting ink and paper. Like Thoreau, we can be opinionated and say what we really think. I imagine that he would have been a prolific blogger. And I don’t think that would have compromised his beliefs about simplicity. Maybe I’ll know better after I finish the book.

Oh yeah. Thanks to our awesome webmaster, we now have a new look for the pastor’s blog. I’ve been so busy building a shack out by the pond that I haven’t had time to get the new blog up and going. Not really. But I would like to build that cabin sometime.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Life on a Mission

I was honored to hear a few Moravians address a small learning community on Friday. They shared with us some amazing history, which I had never heard. Count von Zinzendorf, living in the 1700s in Europe, founded a city named Herrnhut, a place of refuge for radical Christians who had lived in the eastern European mountains for generations.

After the refugees ironed out some conflicts, they became a great missionary village. Hundreds of Christ-followers left their homes to travel to foreign lands, earning a living with a simple trade. There they would live among society’s outcasts, serving them and loving them. They shared with them the call of Jesus to repentance and faith.

They were not seeking to begin Moravian churches, but to lead people to Jesus. They knew that they were likely never to return home, so they said their goodbyes, often at the western coast of Europe, and went to share Jesus with the world. One man even took his tombstone with him, ready to invest the rest of his life to share life with others.

Some of this may sound familiar to those of us in the Triad. Old Salem, which later became part of Winston-Salem, began as a Moravian outpost for evangelism. The various trades done in Salem raised money to support missionary efforts. They reached out to those without Christ in the new world.

There was no distinction between laity and clergy. They were all alike working to share the Savior’s love. The Count urged believers to “Win for the Lamb the reward of his suffering.” It’s all about Jesus.

Two things surprise me here. First, I’m surprised that I had never heard of this missionary enterprise. Of course I had heard of the Moravians, but they seemed like peripheral figures in church history. At the Baptist seminary I attended, I learned plenty about church history, and I even took a course on the Anabaptists. But I don’t recall ever hearing anything about the Moravians. And I know that I never heard about their radical missionary culture.

Second, I’m surprised that the effort did not endure. The missionary effort came to an end after Zinzendorf died. Although was of noble birth, he gave all he had materially to the cause. He also went deep into debt. After his death, the Moravians chose to stop the missions effort until they could repay the Count’s debt. They also chose to become a denomination. After the debt was paid, they never resumed the level of commitment to the great commission. And they were left with a denomination, an institution, a bureaucracy. And lots of church historians forgot them.

Maybe we could see a revival of this kind of radical obedience and sacrifice for the Lord. It will change the world.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Different Approach

I received a book in the mail a couple of months ago. It is an autobiography of a man who is running for governor. I don’t know if I want to vote for him or not.

But one thing about his approach impresses me. He says that we live in a sound-bite world, where media impressions determine the fates of candidates. This book, he says, is an effort to work around the shallow portrayals of the media.

I like the idea of conveying something of substance. You can’t really know a candidate on the basis of TV interviews or check marks on a voter guide. Those tools may be helpful, but they don’t show you the character of the person. This book actually tells about the man’s grandparents and his upbringing. If I keep reading it, I suppose I will find out about his policy stances and vision for North Carolina. But I expect, if I keep reading, that I will also know why he holds his positions.

Our culture does seem to focus on very shallow things. The politicians often hold their positions for shallow reasons, like getting certain voting blocks to support them.

We can be people of depth. We need to think about why we believe what we believe. We can take time to invest in the lives of our friends and know why they like to shop or watch football or camp or read or go to movies.

I hope that we will be people who want to be deeper than the latest fashion, who care about others, who really want to connect. Living deeply takes time. It makes us slow down. But it lets us really experience life.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Destiny Turns!

I learned early this morning that God has moved a judge’s heart in Uganda, and now two AIDS orphans will have new parents in Winston-Salem, NC. Erin and Scott Littleton have been working for over six months to untangle the red tape binding their children. On Oct. 28 we held a concert of prayer, asking God to intervene supernaturally to release those children.

When the judge called in sick on the day after our concert, I wondered what had happened in his life and mind. Some of us talking about the situation felt that God missed a great opportunity to show his glory when he did not have the judge make a ruling on that Monday. God doesn’t need any PR consultants. He knows how to reveal his glory.

Now destiny for these two young children – and their young parents – has turned. He has put them in a place where they will be wanted and loved. Who knows how God may use these children for his glory?

And what about our concert of prayer? Did that tip the scales in favor of the children? People sometimes say that prayer changes things. The truth is that God changes things. Often he uses prayer. Seeking God’s face pulls us into closer fellowship with him. That helps us know his heart and his will. We can pray with greater confidence when we are assured that we are praying in agreement with the will of God. The Bible tells us that when we pray according to the will of God, he hears and answers.

Somehow prayer releases God’s power in our world. His kingdom comes and his will is done.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Good Bye, Freddie

Our beta fish, Freddie, passed away yesterday. He was a very happy fish, as far as we could tell. He was rather old, apparently. We received this fish after a wedding in September 2005. Freddie was one of the table decorations – in a bowl, of course. Several more of his kind also served in this capacity. These other fish were also given to children after the wedding, but they all died within a few weeks.

Freddie was very colorful – blue, orange, gold, purple. He was careful not to eat too much, and we helped him watch his diet. He observed most of our meals from the vantage of the kitchen counter. Occasionally I would speak to him, and he very much appreciated the attention. We had a toy fish sitting next to his bowl, and the two seemed to get along swimmingly.

Good old Freddie lived two years and two months. A couple of months ago we noticed that his color was not good. He seemed less active than usual. Fortunately we could see the end coming. So could the people who fish-sat for us recently, when we were out of town. They were understandably relieved that Freddie did not expire on their watches.

We said a few words ceremonially this morning as we disposed of his remains. The big question, of course, is whether we will see Freddie again in heaven. I’ll have to trust God on that one. All creation gives glory to God, including our dearly departed.

Of course, if pets show up in heaven, I could be in trouble. My grandmother’s cat, Tiger, could be there. I used to pull his tail and then wonder why he would run from me. I might have to give an answer for my misguided zeal for friendship.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Tricks and Treats

Last night our small group led an Outflow ministry, reversing the typical trick-or-treat expedition. We went around Stokesdale, giving treats as we went.

Our mission started at the Little Feet Learning Center. We had arranged in advance to give out glow sticks and trick-or-treat bags to all the children as they were picked up by their parents, between 5 and 6 p.m.. Unfortunately, we missed all but a few kids, because most of them had been picked up early for Halloween parties.

Our group of kids and adults just delivered the gifts to the kids in their classrooms. Of course we were all dressed for the occasion – well, most of us were. And we were all in good spirits. The kids all loved it.

Our original plan was to give gifts at the day care and then deliver packs of Tic Tacs to the workers in all the retail businesses in town. We had so many left over glow sticks and bags, we just gave them out with the mints, too. At many establishments, the workers thought that we were there to get treats. It was a great surprise for them to learn that we were giving.

Of course we were all laughing the whole time, so it was fun for everyone.

Then a small group member hosted us for a meal and a surprise. The meal was good, both the food and the fellowship. But the surprise was a comet. As an amateur astronomer, he knew about the Holmes Comet. In the northeastern sky, around 7:30 p.m. we could see it. It looks like a fuzzy star. To me they all look fuzzy, but when you look through good binoculars, you can see it easily. Because the tail is pointed directly to earth, it looks like a star with a thick halo of light around it.

Of course, nighttime on Halloween, looking at stars, provides the perfect opportunity to scare each other. Which we did. It was great.

With the giggling, the giving, the stars and comet, and the fun meal, we had a spectacular evening. Lots of treats and just a few tricks.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Getting It Right

Some of today’s college graduates are approaching life from a different perspective. When I finished college in 1984, my friends and I were looking for first jobs or going on to graduate school. While lots of people still think like that, some graduates are challenging the prevailing assumptions.

You have to have a job. You have to do what pays well. You need to have insurance and benefits.

After all, you can’t just pick up and go to Africa, for crying out loud. Well, it’s not quite that simple, but the Littletons (for whom we had the special concert of prayer last Sunday) did spend six months as newlyweds on another continent. Their experience has changed the trajectory of their entire lives. They are working to adopt two African children, which will obviously change their lives. (See their blog at here

But with or without adopting, they will have a completely different outlook on life. They can look more objectively at their priorities and the needs of the world. They are willing to find ways to serve, rather than ways to make money. Life is about serving and giving, and they have been living it. They are seeking first the kingdom of heaven, just like Jesus said.

My generation believed in seeking God’s kingdom first, but we assumed that the traditional routes of earning a living were essential along the way. Maybe earning a living really can take second place to serving God. Even if we don’t sell everything, give it to the poor and go live in a third world country, maybe we can make some serious adjustments to our lives and thoughts. For a start, we could change the way we spend our leisure time and disposable income.

We need to challenge our assumptions and get serious about seeking God’s kingdom first. It’s actually more fun that way.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Of Prayer and Sleep

Last night we had a concert of prayer. Some friends of Crossroads are working to adopt two children from Uganda, and they are running into a lot of red tape. This couple was married at the Long House, where our church meets, about two years ago. A few months after their wedding, they went to Uganda as missionaries for six months. They served at the Amani Orphanage, helping the children who have lost their parents to AIDS.

While there, they fell in love with a 5-year-old little girl and her 3-year-old brother. They decided that God wanted them to adopt these children. After they returned to the U.S., they applied for the adoption, through the Ugandan government.

Last May they went to Uganda to finalize the process and bring the children home. But there was a judge who had to approve the adoption. He has issued delay after delay, setting dates for a decision, and then making no decision. The adopting parents came home without their children. The judge finally stopped setting dates, saying that he would contact them when he had decided something.

That’s why we gathered to pray last night. We asked God to move this judge’s heart, so that he would allow the children to come “home” to Winston-Salem, NC. It was a great time of music, praying, scripture, praying, testimony, and praying. God showed up. Even if nothing changes in Uganda, God blessed us by allowing us to focus on him as we sought his intervention.

During one prayer time, our group of pray-ers asked God to disturb the judge’s sleep with dreams about this judicial ruling. We asked God to work in his heart as he slept. We asked that his REM cycle bring him a heightened sense of urgency about releasing these children.

Today, the judge called in sick. Maybe he didn’t sleep well. Seems likely. Maybe tomorrow he will issue his ruling in favor of these children and their parents.

We are still praying and waiting.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

My Personal Gift Registry

I was looking this morning at the various water-for-Africa Web sites. There are lots of foundations and organizations moving ahead with this work. I happened to notice on the Web site for Universal Giving that they have a gift registry.

You know what a gift registry is. At a store you sign up for the wedding gifts or baby gifts you would like to have. Then your friends and family can get you a gift on the list, and know that they’re giving you something you want.

Universal Giving has set up a gift registry for charitable giving on your behalf. Rather than pawing through the sweater selection at Target, your friends can go to your gift registry and give to something close to your heart. Just think how easy Christmas shopping would be if you could just log on and give to your friends’ charities.

I also noticed that this organization takes no cut of your gift for its own administration. Your whole gift is given to the selected charity. When you set up your registry, you can indicate which kinds of charities interest you. Then they will email about new giving opportunities you may care about.

You could give gifts for Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, birthdays, Halloween. If you are really brave, you could give a donation for Valentine’s Day.

I’m going to set up my registry now.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


In the past several days we have finally had some rain. But the drought has gotten me thinking.

We have become so independent from weather conditions, we have lost our sense of dependence on God. What do we do if we completely run out of water?

One municipality announced that they had only a 60-day supply of water. If it doesn’t rain in two months, then they have no water. Until our recent rains, it looked like that could happen. One town is running tanker trucks all day, hauling water from a neighboring community and dumping it in their reservoir. And the water level is still going down.

Duke Power has created a series of pipes to pump water from the Dan River into Belews Lake. They need the water for their steam generating station.

When the reservoirs are empty, then we resort to extraordinary means. We haul water from another town. We pipe water from a river. We can even use wells until they run dry.

We are not used to hardship due to weather. We go a couple of months without rain, and we start to get…scared. We take water for granted. But countless times in history, regions have gone through famines – years without rain or snow.

How do we change the weather? How do we fix that? Suddenly we realize that this is something we can’t fix. Only God can control the weather. We have to ask him for rain. God has many ways of making us remember that we have to count on him. We depend on him for everything we need for life. A serious drought brings it home. We have to call upon him.

A drought also helps us see how important water is for life. Makes you want to help provide clean water around the world, doesn’t it. Let’s help drill some wells in Africa.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Don't Call Me Reverend

Someone called my house yesterday asking for Reverend Bailey. I will answer to that title, but it usually makes me nauseous. I tried to figure out why I dislike the term so much.

Maybe it’s because of Mack. He was a short, rotund middle-aged man in South Georgia. When I had finished my graduate education, Lisa and I went from Ft. Worth, Texas to Coolidge, Georgia to interview with a small church and meet its members. At this point, I had not been ordained, so I had never been called “Reverend.” But that meant nothing to old Mack. He seemed not to care that I had a name. He was full of fun and jokes; he especially loved preacher jokes. Whenever he addressed me, he would call me “Rev-runt.”

While I liked old Mack, I’ve never much cared for that salutation, even when properly pronounced.

But I think my disdain for the term runs deeper. Why would someone want to be revered above others? It seems like an ego trip. It seems like a way of looking down on others.

Another thing that bothers me is the weakness and ineffectiveness of most churches in our culture. When someone calls me Reverend, I feel like I’m lumped in with chaplains of lukewarm Christian social clubs. I feel all the baggage of the failure of churches to display the kingdom of God.

If God himself is working through churches, then – with a few exceptions – God looks mighty weak. I don’t like being associated with a charity that needs more help than it gives.

I know these are my hang-ups. My perceptions are distorted. God is doing amazing, powerful things through his people around the world. He is redeeming people, communities, and cultures. He is pouring out his resurrection power. It just seems to me that such acts of God don’t cluster around people who enjoy being called Reverend.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


In chemistry, a catalyst is an agent that speeds up a chemical reaction. Without the catalyst, the reaction would take place, but it would take much longer. So the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta last week is designed to speed up the development of Christian leaders.

Five of us from Crossroads went to be catalyzed.. It was an unforgettable experience. We were challenged by speakers who did not pretend to be perfect. They acknowledged their weaknesses and God’s power to work in spite of them. They challenged us to expect God to use us in a mighty way.

We also heard about out-of-the-box initiatives, begun by ordinary people. One young entrepreneur told about his shoe company, Toms Shoes. They sell canvas shoes for $38 per pair. For every pair they sell, the give away a pair to a needy child. They have given shoes to kids in Argentina and will be giving 40,000 pairs to children in Africa this fall. They also plan to give shoes to kids in the U.S. in 2008. Here is a company that is making a difference, and providing an avenue for sharing the gospel.

Another world-changer gave up her high powered job in NYC so that she could help convicts come clean. She began a ministry in Texas prisons, where she trains former murderers and drug dealers to run legitimate companies. She works with the inmates who have become followers of Jesus and gives them hope of productive lives beyond prison. She uses her connections with CEOs around the country to get the new business leaders in the right markets.

Here’s what I like about these approaches: They become chain-reactions. When I wear a pair of Toms Shoes, I can tell the story – that some needy child is now protected from foot disease because of the shoes on my feet. When we give Christmas presents, we plan to give Toms Shoes. These folks will learn the story and will tell others. As the word spreads, more and more children are shod.

The convict rehab idea also produces a chain-reaction. The businesses started by these ex-cons tend to have a world changing philosophy. They are not just trying to make a living or make a profit. They are trying to change lives. Their own lives have been changed, so they know it can happen.

When we engage the world in the name of Christ and show God’s love, the Holy Spirit empowers the effort. The world is not used to this kind of giving and serving. People ask why. They are ready to hear the good news because they have seen it in action.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Power Wash

Sunday was a perfect day to share God’s love in a practical way. At the Stokesdale Sunoco, we had about 25 people serving at our “Dollar Car Wash.” We had a steady line of cars for most of the afternoon as we scrubbed and rinsed.

It was a great lesson about serving and giving.

Some people were quite particular about how their cars were washed. One man kept giving us pointers for cleaning, and then produced his own towels for drying. He was, like everyone else, most surprised after the job, when he learned the terms of our Dollar Car Wash.

We accepted no money, but gave every customer a dollar, saying, “Thank you for letting us wash your car. This is our way of showing you God’s love in a practical way.” Some people insisted on giving us money. We told them to find someone who needs the money and give it to them instead. For a church to be so giving was something that no one expected. A couple of people came to tears at the thought that God loved them so.

Sharing God’s love is an incredible experience. So many in our world have never known, or have forgotten his love. Certainly, for many it is hard to believe. Tough times, hurtful relationships, health problems, financial hardships – they all seem like evidence that God doesn’t love us. But he really does. When people see that God loves them, they can receive his gift of forgiveness and life. For some people, it is a long process. That’s why we need to share his love.

And it’s FUN!

Friday, September 21, 2007

American Freedom

This week our family went to Williamsburg, Virginia with Classical Conversations, the company for which my wife works. (They provide home school curriculum and tutoring.) We took a day to visit historic Williamsburg. I was amazed.

Now I had been to Williamsburg when I was probably 10 years old, but I remember little from that visit. I was amazed this week because the founding of our country is so fascinating and inspiring, yet I learned so little about it in school.

The Founding Fathers longed for something beyond religious tolerance. They fought for religious liberty. Tolerance was granted in that era to those who did not participate in the state-sponsored religion. Such citizens could be tolerated if they would jump through certain hoops created by government regulation. But the colonists wanted real freedom of faith.

Taxation and representation were also important factors in the revolt, of course. But the British abuses in these areas offended the colonists’ sense of freedom – freedom that comes from God.

Listening to the rhetoric of today’s society, I had come to wonder if it was right for the colonists to revolt. What could be worth starting a war? Now I understand better what was happening. They did not want a war, but they knew they must have freedom. Patrick Henry’s cry – “Give me liberty or give me death” – fell upon many cautious, hesitant ears. But the growing abuses and coercion of the British government became too much, and the colonists stood up and took arms.

We can’t afford to forget the lessons of our country’s founding.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

On Me and Time

I learned something about myself. The way I view time needs to develop. I have always been slow. Not running—I guess I’m an average runner. But it takes me some time to do things. I often am the last one to finish a meal. My college suitemates made fun of me for taking 20 minutes in the shower. I could spend an hour folding a basket of clothes while jamming to music.

Sometimes I’m slow to understand things, too. My 7th grade math teacher described me as a “late bloomer.” I can get there, but it takes me a while. I often walk away from a conversation thinking, “I should have said this,” or “But what about such and such?” It’s like having a hundred questions for the doctor, right after he walks away.

My concept of time needs improvement because it keeps me from moving on. I sometimes get focused on doing a task and fail to focus on COMPLETING the task. Folding clothes is not a permanent state of being.

And then I expect holidays to last forever. I feel betrayed when the time is up. “I’ve been waiting so long for this to come. How can it be over already?”

I want to enjoy the moment, but I need to find the right balance. Time is not for me or against me. Time just is. It will keep moving on with or without me. If I will focus on completing tasks, I can get more done. I can savor the important things and move on through the mundane.

Oops. My time is up.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Responding to Islam

A columnist recently applauded a pop musician in Indonesia who is sounding the call for moderate Muslims to take a stand. The lyrics to his songs encourage love rather than hate. Many of the lines actually come from the Koran, they say.

Not being an expert on Islam, I rely on what others say about that religion. Some say that the only way to interpret the Koran is that Muslims must wage holy war against non-Muslims, in order to bring them to their faith. Others will say that Islam is a peaceful religion. I’m not really sure which brand is authentic. I don’t believe that every Muslim is out to kill me. But I know that there are many Muslims who would die to kill any American.

Should we be glad that moderates in Islam are calling for peace? Certainly we don’t want more terrorism. What bothers me is the belief that peaceful coexistence is the goal of religion. If a set of beliefs “works,” then we should be glad that people ascribe to those beliefs…right?

Actually, faith should be about truth. The good and gentle religions of the world may help people feel good and live together. But these religious are substitutes for the truth: That only Jesus restores us to our rightful place of fellowship with God, and with others. Remember the greatest commands: Love God, love your neighbor.

It is much easier to see that Jesus is the Truth when those of other faiths are committing mass murder. When they teach Jesus’ ideals but ignore his claims to deity, then they can gain good will and perhaps gain followers. But they really miss the point.

But maybe those who dare live the Lord’s ideals will eventually realize that Jesus is the Truth. Those who truly seek truth will always, eventually come to Jesus.

The Biggest Obstacle

Comic strip character Pogo said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

That truth came home to me some years ago, and I’m still trying to fight the battle. I came to realize that the biggest obstacle to my success was my mind. OK, no wisecracks about my brain. I don’t mean my intelligence. Though I’m not as smart as a lot of people I know, the size of my IQ is not the issue.

My biggest obstacle to success – in just about anything – is my thought patterns. So often I fall into stinking thinking. I constantly find myself believing that I can’t do something. I fall prey to paralyzing thoughts such as: You have already blown it; It’s too late to get it right; They won’t like me; You are not prepared; It will never work out; You may as well quit now; It might work for other people, but it won’t work for you; etc.

The problem with these thoughts is that they usually are not true. The Bible tells us to watch how we think. Philippians 4:8 says, “Whatever is true…think about such things.” I get off track when I dwell on things that are not true.

Another problem with stinking thinking is that it is based upon myself. When I dwell on what I know or my preparation, I’m being proud and believing that all life depends on me. But my life really depends on God. He’s the one who really makes things work out. He’s the one who has all knowledge. He’s the one in charge of the timing of events. He’s the one brings me favor in the eyes of other people. I get short-sighted when I think that I’m the one who makes things work out.

This bad thinking is orphan thinking. “I’m all alone. No one cares about me. If I can’t work it out, then it will all fall apart. I’ve got to work things around so that I come out on top.” This orphan thinking really dishonors Christ. He gave me life as an adopted son of God. I’m never alone.

Good thinking dwells on the fact that God is in charge. He will make it all work out. He won’t let go of me. He is my advocate. In Christ I am perfect. I have nothing to prove. Paul talks about taking “captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

When I dwell on these thoughts, life’s setbacks don’t knock me down so badly. God doesn’t need me to be productive for his kingdom. He loves me just as I am. His love through Christ frees me to live by his power. His power trumps all the negative thoughts. He frees me with his truth. He frees me to live. And by his grace, he uses me to build his kingdom and bring him glory.

That’s fun.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Christmas Thoughts

I came across news yesterday about a group of churches who want to celebrate Christmas in a way that honors God. I have always struggled with a disconnect between Jesus and Christmas. So many of our celebrations and traditions have very little to do with him. Think of all the energy that people have spent, trying to squeeze Jesus into gift-giving, decorating and singing about snowmen.

Rick McKinley is pastor of Imago Dei, a church in Portland. His church got together with four other churches to begin a new way to do Christmas. They recognized four elements of the first Christmas and translated those elements into today’s world.

First, worship. People worshiped Jesus, and it changed their lives: the shepherds, Anna, Simeon, then later the magi.

Second, resisting the empire. Jesus’ coming was very subversive to the existing empire of Herod. But the subversion was not at all like Herod expected.

Third, relational giving. God’s gift to us was relationship through Jesus.

Finally, redistribution. Jesus became poor so that we could become rich. That’s the ultimate in redistribution of wealth.

This group of churches took those themes and applied them to real life in America. They urge Christ followers to

-Worship Jesus by focusing on him, not consumerism.
-Resist the empire by refusing over-spending at Christmas.
-Participate in relational giving with gifts such as pictures, art, or a trip to a ballgame or concert.
-Share in redistribution by giving to make a difference – to missions or to fight world hunger.

What really blows me away is the report that $10 billion will provide clean water for the entire world. Last year Americans spent $457 billion at Christmas.

What if all Christ followers viewed Christmas as a time to impact the world? Image the way that would really change the world.

See the article about Advent Conspiracy here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Reflections on Week of Hope

Our Week of Hope with Group Workcamps was an unforgettable experience. I tried not to hog the space in our blogs from Canandaigua, NY, because I wanted you to hear more of the words from the troops. Now that we have been home for a few days, I’m ready to hog the space again.

My biggest take away from our mission trip is that the Holy Spirit is powerful! He took our experience to a whole ’nother level. He was able to overcome our confusion, discomfort, fatigue and disorganization, and he renovated our hearts.

The conditions of our lodging were less than ideal. The men/boys slept in the church basement/fellowship hall. You would think that the basement would be cool, but you’d be wrong. At least we had plenty of space. The women/girls slept upstairs in classrooms, two of which were air conditioned. Our group got the AC. God was watching over us. But with the slightly cooler air, they had too little floor space for the 10 of them. There was only room for seven air mattresses. It reminded me of Jesus’ parable when the friend didn’t want to answer the door in the middle of the night because his family were all asleep.

The worship times at night were held in the church sanctuary, which was built in 1872 – no lie. It did not have AC (duh), but had huge stained glass windows with small panels that opened. (We were told to close the windows at night to keep the bats out.) The music was led by a team from a youth group from Ohio. They tried their best, but had difficulty getting it all together.

The reason I mention the less-than-ideal elements is that God trumped them. So often we believe that spiritual work requires slick, professional presentation. (How did the Holy Spirit work before AC and video clips?) We don’t want to be sloppy in our corporate worship, of course, but Jesus can work around it. He can take our minds and souls to things higher than discomfort and disorganization. He can even use those difficulties to catapult us to a greater state of joy and spiritual sensitivity.

But for that to happen, we must be willing to forgo our “right” to comfortable conditions. We have to suspend our desire to critique arrangements and procedures. It takes a humble spirit to accept things as they are and look for God to show up.

He did show up. Lives have been changed in our youth group and in our youth leaders. The momentum in the Crossroads youth group is carrying on and spilling over to our church.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Day 4 by the Youth Group

Kristen: I am homesick and I want to go home! I miss you! *tear tear*

Ken: What a day, working and building relations with the residents of the Armstrong House. As good as the day was, the evening service was “Unbelievable”. That is the only word to describe last night. I would like each of the youth parents to know that your young adults are a really amazing group. I did not know how amazing, until last night. I will not go into too much detail, but each of the young adults in our youth group is a changed person. That you can believe. I am just thrilled that I got to experience the events that took place last night. God is sooooo Good!

Kathie: Today, we finally had a cushy day, like all the rest. We had to stain deck rails in the morning, but then we took the afternoon off and went to explore the Sonnenberg mansion and grounds. It was owned by the guy who started Citi Group back in the late 1800’s. BEAUTIFUL!!! Definitely worth a trip, next time you’re in Canandaigua. As Ken said, last night showed me just how awesome our youth are. I am amazed! God has blessed us all with this experience. I can’t wait to see all of you tomorrow – we will drive carefully, we promise!

Lisa: Our last day of work was fun, but bittersweet; the girls on my crew have gotten pretty close! We have enjoyed our work, and the agency seemed very appreciative. The evening service last night was very touching, and many “life-changing” decisions have been made! The group has a new sense of unity, and a definite sense of purpose and commitment. We are going to try to drive up to Lake Ontario in a while, so we can say we’ve seen a Great Lake! (A fun way to spend our 21st anniversary!) Can’t WAIT to see my sweet Sarah tomorrow!!!!!!!!

Becca: Hi people today was soooooooo awesome….I really don’t want to go but I would like to sleep in my bed and not on the floor anymore. And I have to say that I have a big step forward in well hard to say what it would classify as but I apologized to Dennis and mom so we’re totally cool well somewhat. Its not an over night thing to fix but I’m going to work on it. and I cried more last night then I have in like five years put together. And to tell you the truth that’s really, really sad but hey its okay. I’m going to miss some people at the nursing home. Some of those elderly folk can be a hoot. But any ways cant wait to get back home to see all my other peeps and sleep in my own bed… :P Loves you guys…love you grandma and grandpa and mom and Joey and everybody else.

Cecily: Well today, like last night, was so emotional. I cried like 3 times today. Last night everyone cried for like 4 hours straight (including Daniel.. who was sweet enough to let me cry on his shoulder). So of course when I woke up this morning my eyes were like swollen shut and I put makeup on anyways thinking that’s not gunna happen again today.. but guess what?! IT DID!!! Now I gotta go redo my makeup again!! This whole experience has been completely awakening and such an eye opener. I have gained so many true friends through this whole thing and I almost don’t want to come home. BUT.. BIG BUT… I defiantly cant wait until I can get home and sleep in Mardell’s guest bed and go “home”. I also cant wait to see HG –inside joke!! (aka: JOE my bf!!) Ok. Well, I guess you’ll here more from us on Sunday morning. There’s so many things to talk about but I’m sick of typing so yeah.. See y’all tomorrow or Sunday.

Daniel: today was very messy, our crew painted and repaired an elderly lady’s fence. I had to nail in new boards and repaint. It was very hot today. I also got stabbed by a nail while I was nailing it into the fence. I love you mom, Steve, and daddy.

David: It has been an incredible week. The Holy Spirit has gotten a hold of us He has worked in our individual lives and drawn us together. And it has been FUN! Serving Jesus and loving each other is a blast!

Stacey: Last nights service was amazing…everyone cried like all night. Well today our crew finished the nursing home projects. On our way home, the air conditioning broke and the window was stuck down so all the hot air was stuck in the car. We drove to the Friendly Ford Service Center and they were just really mean to us. [so much for the friendly part] So then we were on our way home and we got lost. Anyways, we had a good day so far. We are probably going to go see Lake Ontario later and then hopefully shopping. I made a lot of friends during this week, and I especially got really close to this girl named Joyce. It’s going to be pretty hard to say goodbye. Lauren, Daniel, and I went running again this morning. It felt pretty good to start running again. Well I’ll see y’all tomorrow and I love y’all.

Lauren: Let me just start off by telling [you’s guys] that my day didn’t end as crappy as it started. It was a very touching service, it was pretty much a serious, intense stations of the cross with one of those video clips that you just bawl through. Let me just tell you that this whole experience has not only made me closer to the Lord Jesus Christ, but our whole youth group has gotten so much closer and so much out of this. Now today, It was our last day, my crew actually met some new friends that will be joining our evening program tonight. It’s sad/exciting to leave tomorrow. I have had an incredible time, but yet my bed is calling my name! oh and I miss my mom. That’s all folks!

Brianna: ok, first of all I want to say to EVERYONE that is reading this that I LOVE THEM SOOOOOOOOOO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OH MY GOSH YALL!!!! Guess what! Im serious!! You will NOT believe this!!! I cried soooooooo hard for the first time for one of those worship services thingies!! I feel soooo proud of my self cuz, well first of all I cried (I know, aren’t you proud of me?)but what im really excited about is that I have a whole new look on life and my relationship with Jesus and a relation ship with ALL OF YOU THAT ARE READING THIS!!!! Im serious!!! Im not joking!!! I cried sooooo much last night. Mom if you are reading this right now call dad and tell him that I love him and that I miss him sooooooo much!!!!! I know it would mean more if it were coming from me, and I will tell him, but I still want you to say that. And Michael, I miss you sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much. I know you weren’t expecting me to even talk to you on here probly, but I love you sooo much. And I want yall (as in ALL THAT IS READING THIS) to know that God loves you even more than I do!! (I know that’s kinda hard to believe…but…(jk)) no but seriously I want you all to know that God loves you sooooooo much!!

Stephanie: Hey! Okay, this has been the craziest two days in the world for me. Yesterday, at the program, I cried like I have never before cried during one of those kind of things. The whole youth group was bawling like crazy (me, too) and everyone was hugging each other. I did not expect or dare to hope for what happened. Today was very, very, very fun but soooooo awful, too, because it was our last day working. As y’all know, I was working with Hispanic kids all week. I learned SO much Spanish it isn’t even funny!! I can actually understand enough Spanish to converse with the kids now!!!!!!!! And then, WE HAD TO JUST LEAVE FOREVER. That was one of the saddest, hardest things that has ever happened to me. It is so amazing how you can grow so close to some kids that you will probably (actually, like, definitely) never see again in only four days. That was so cool! I will never forget them no matter what. The car ride back to the church where we are staying was awesome! I was with my crew and we are like so tight now!! Luna is Chinese and she taught us how to say things. She taught this kid named Austin how to say something, and then she told him it meant, “I am stupid” in Chinese. He said it so funny! It looked like he was choking on a hard-boiled egg!! I laughed as hard as I think I have ever laughed in my life!!! I am going to miss everyone so much. I hate to leave, but I miss everyone at home so much, too. I y’all rock and I can’t wait to see you again!!!!!! See you Sunday!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Day 3 by the Youth Group

Kristen: Hey everybody miss ya all! Hope you guys are havng fun without me. I MISS YOU DAWN!! Have a great time and make sure that you miss me. I went Jogging with stacy and Daniel. It was fun! Today we got to swim at the camp I was working at. I am ready for bed and soo tired! Boredom will overwhelm me for today but tomorrow we are going on a tarp water slide at the camp! I am pretty excited about that! I met a little girl named Taylor who was four. She was so cute. We had only been hanging out for like 20 minutes at the pool and she was already swimming with me and hugging me. She is nothing like Dawn(dawn’s way better) but she was cute. She gets kind of attached easily but she was nice. Any ways…I miss you all and I an’t wait to get back home. I’m a little home sick so I am looking forward to being with mom. My foot is asleep right now so I have to go and loosen it up. Love you all! BYE!!!!

Daniel: This morning Stacey, Kristin, and I went running down Main Street in Canadaiga. We finished up at the school and church today. Tomorrow we are going to paint a fence for an elderly lady. The principal took us out for ice cream. Love Y’all.

Becky: Today has been good so far I’m just totally waiting for bedtime to get here. Anyways ummm I played poker with a guy named Bob and he’s total cheat and I beat two people at war…yay! Tomorrow we’re going to wal-mart and I’m totally broke well not really but I might as well be. But hey that’s cool. I’m having a blast. Ok well that’s all for now peeps…showin some southern love. Peace out.

Cecily: Today my crew continued working at the assisted living place. I helped vacuum the dining area and play a horse racing game. We also had the senior “store” today. That’s where the owner goes to the actually dollar store and buys things for the residents that cant get out and they get the opportunity to but those things from him. We set 4 tables up with stuff and we had a great turnout. I also learned how to say I love you in polish!! Tonight I have a surprise for the youth group!! They don’t know it yet but tonight in our devotion time with all the groups combined.. not only do I get to do a drama with a couple other kids, but I get to cheer with this guy named T.J. It is our all-star salute to Jesus. Only 2 kids get to do it a night. Im excited.

Stacey: Today Susan[our volunteer leader from the nursing home] took us to the “beach”. Joyce and I fell asleep on the picnic tables. Our crew finished all of our tasks at the nursing home and now we think we are just going to get to relax…hopefully. At the “beach” today we walked in the water and then we went to see a lighthouse. We got to climb up to the top of it. [52 steps!] This morning, Daniel, Kristine, and I went running down Main Street for about 2 miles. [my cross country training!] We got up at about 5 in the morning..ahh. well I love y’all.

Stephanie: Hey! Yesterday, we went to lake Onana. The water was freezing cold! The bottom was pure gravel all the way out in the middle. When I went under water, it felt like I was diving into an ice block. Then, we went to Applebee’s and played telephone. It was way fun!! Today was fun (again). I played with the kids some more and there’s one girl named Elena who doesn’t speak any English at all. I was teaching her how to say stuff in English like nose and mouth and eyes and stuff and all of a sudden she just jumped in my lap and hugged me. It was sooooooo sweet!!! Then, in the afternoon, I painted a little and then I shoveled gravel from one pit to another for no apparent reason. It’s been a pretty good day but my crew leader just got rushed to the hospital in an ambulance for bad stomach pain like two seconds ago, though, so PLEASE pray for him. Also, there is a guy here who, every time he opens his mouth, talks badly about “you southern people”. It gets on my nerves so bad!!!! I am so gonna sleep good tonight!!!!!!!! So much has happened! Well, hope y’all are doing well at home. Luv ya!!

Ken: What a day!!! It is soooo hot and humid, but we have had a great time at the Assisted Living home. We worked very hard, but also had time to visit. The youth in my crew are having such great life experiences by visiting with the residents. Last night we had our free night, and we went to Onanda Park,, and out to eat at Applebee’s. The group really bonded, especially during dinner (telephone). We also had a great devotion time covering the topic of Love. The youth really amaze me with their willingness to be open and share some really special experiences and feelings. Thank all of you for trusting us with your kids. They are really growing closer together and closer to God. I can not wait to see everybody when we get home.
Love ya!!

Kathie: Today was spent clearing wisteria vine and trimming trees. The owners and tenants are so appreciative of everything we have done. In my opinion, I have the best crew around. All the teens are such hard workers, and the other adult is a fun guy to be with. We are having the best time teasing and laughing, and our devotions after lunch are really deep. I can’t believe that tomorrow is the last work day!

Brianna: Hey yall Stokesdale country folk!!! I miss you soooooo much!!!!! But it wont be long till I see ya again!!!!!! GUESS WHAT!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
I got to play UNO all day today and we were barely ever outside! And we talked to this guy named FRED and he really appreciated us being his “audience”. He said he really loved us. It was kinda neat cuz we were mostly doing outside work till today and we never really got to talk to the veterans that much. So I had a good day!!! Hope I get back home to a nice big pack of happy and healthy friends and family!!!! 

Lisa: Today my crew cleaned out the food pantry at the agency we’ve been helping. (They have a mouse problem; it is apparently my destiny to deal with mice and food stores!) We also delivered lunches again to the kids. My group has lots of fun together, and some seriously deep discussions. Today the theme is “peace”, and we talked about how peace is not just the absence of conflict, but something much more abiding; it’s a wholeness of spirit that only comes from Christ. We discussed ways to have Christ’s peace even in the midst of hard/uncomfortable times. All our youth are doing GREAT, and everyone is well and happy. (We have our share of headaches, sore muscles, and sleep deprivation, but all in all life is good!!) I don’t know who is having the BEST time, but nobody is having a bad time!

Lauren: Today wasn’t the best day, didn’t feel all too well, but HEY! No complaints. Another day at Avalanche Ranch [*insert wahoo here]. We went to the lake afterward, and I got one of them farmer’s tans. Well, I don’t know what to say really, but don’t get me wrong it’s been the time of my life, and it was so worth coming. In fact, if the whole church could come it would be worth it. I feel better now, this is kind of a waste of space for those who read this, I know how boring he is. I feel a little better now, well chao.

David: God is turning our youth group into a bunch of crazy people. But that’s OK. It’s a lot of fun! The fun has helped us cope with the heat. (It’s never this hot here, except of course when we are here.) My crew finished staining the deck around the swimming pool today. While we were working, the man’s dog (actually his son’s) got stung by hornets nested inside the dog’s kennel. The dog could not escape until he braved the bugs and opened the gate. Poor dog got stung maybe a hundred times. They took him to the vet, who gave the dog Benedryl. We prayed for the dog (Wesley). I hope this will be a witness of God’s compassion to the man and his family.
Meredith: I don’t have a whole lot to say today. So um hi. And uhhh tomorrows the last day. Uhmmm bye bye.

Day 2 by the Youth Group

Some of these blogs were written on Tues, and some on Wed. morning...

Becky: Today was totally rockin’ babes!!!! I mean seriously rockin’ and I talked with this guy named Don who is blind. He collects postcards and I think he has over 1,000 of them and there all in abc order and by state. So I helped him do that most of the day. I’m soooo hyped peeps. This like totally rockin. I think I’ve said that like soo many times already but its true. And the program from last night really hit a sore spot for me and I think a few other people. But it really made me think about some things. Well that’s really all I can think of to say so peace out peoples.

Meredith: Mmk yall. I don’t have a whole lot to say…we went on a picnic today  WERE GOING TO STARBUCKS BABY!! Yeahh…I miss yall <3

Kristen: today (yesterday) was really fun. The lake was a little cold but we bested Lauren’s team in B-ball! Today’s been fun but people have been imitating my accent! They still love FURRCRACKER! Lol! Neways, I miss you all and I hope ou all are having a great time cuz I know I am!! Well back to reality: Brianna talked in her sleep last night and Stacey rolled over onto Becca and yelled, “PERT”! I didn’t sleep to well last night but I had a boatload of fun!
Lots of love,
Kristen M.

Stacey: I absolutely love my crew! They are amazing. They make fun of my accent but that’s ok. It’s cool. Today we had a water fight and we are gardening in a nursing home. We are getting ready to go to starbucks and the lake. Tonight is our free time..FUN FUN! Tomorrow our crew is going to take a tour of the city and then we will go to the beach! Yeah so im pretty much in love with my work crew. I just drank 78 grams of sugar in a vault and I’m soooo hyper. They call soda pop and I think its HILARIOUS! Love y’all.

Daniel: I’ve been cleaning so many windows. Love y’all.

Stephanie: Hey again!! We made breakfast this morning but we really didn’t do much but set out stuff like cereal and fruit and coffee. Today at the work place we played with the Hispanic kids again and finished painting the storage building we started yesterday. It was WAY hotter than yesterday! Tonight we’re gonna go to a lake and Starbucks (YES!!!) for free time. The programs are pretty good and we learned a dance to one of the songs and we did it up front. I’m getting to know my crew even better and I love them so much!! There are two other girls and a boy. Oh yeah and I finally found some people that talk weird. It’s really hard to understand them sometimes. They think I talk weird, too. The people in my crew think that NC is soooooooo far south. One kid asked my if I had ever seen snow!! Lol! It’s a lot of fun up here and I’m gonna hate to leave on Friday. Hope you all are having fun, too!! Luv y’all!

Lauren: Wear clothing of love, don’t forget your pants. There was a really sad story about a young boy named Gary, that I will be more than welcome to share when I arrive, I’m not going to ruin it now. I am having a blast, playing telephone at AppleBee’s? (bet you never done that before!) I love our dance that we learned, which will definitely be shown Sunday. Well I’m off! Hope to see all of you soon. [=

Brianna: hey yall Stokesdale southern folk!!! I miss yall back home!!! My crew is really cool!! In my crew people are from all over the place!! Brady, my crew leader, is from MICHIGAN!!! And there is a girl named sara, and she’s from Pennsylvania and Jen is from Ohio, and Sam is from Neo Jersey, and Alex is from Iowa!!!! I told ya they were from all over!!! Guess what!!! I sleep talked last night!!! No one could understand what I was saying but they all said that I had a whole conversation in my sleep!!! Thanx for congratulating me!! (jk) im missing you all and I hope I come back home to happy and healthy friends and family!!! Luv yall!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cecily: Today we went on a picnic with like 5 old people. Then we went to the old people happy hour and sang take me out to the ball game while they all drank. I don’t feel like typing a lot today. I’m not sick.. I’m just tired and completely out of patience. Oh yeah, and I think I got another bladder infection. Awesome. Miss y’all.

Ken: Today our crew continued painting at the assisted living house, but we also took half the day to organize and put on a little festival for the residents. This included horseshoes, memory games, croquet and a ball toss. This allowed us to connect with some of the residents on a more personal level. I really enjoyed talking to Nan (96) and George (95). Last night we had a real powerful message, and afterwards, we had our group devotion for almost two hours. That’s right, your kids talked about the message, their thoughts, and how we can all Forgive better. God is really present here, and I can see each of the youth experiencing him. What an experience this is. I am sooo excited to be a part of this. Miss you all.

Kathie: Today I taught my crew how to say “aw-ite”, and Karina (our Jersey girl) taught us how to say “Baw-ston” and “caw-fee”. We spent our time pulling briars and painting the storage building (6 hours of fun!). Seriously, the woman we are helping is so nice. Evidently she and her husband have had medical problems, and haven’t been able to do any of this type of maintenance for a couple of years. The have 2 boarders, and the woman boarder is one of the most God filled, joyful people I have ever met. It’s people like this that make it all worthwhile!!

Lisa: Today, our crew washed out the service van we use to deliver the lunches to local kids. We had a good time of fellowship within our crew, and enjoyed sharing about “God sightings”, forgiveness (yesterday’s theme), and love (today’s theme). Our goal today was to get the agency workers who go with us talking more; we had limited success! Last night our kids helped lead the worship time by dancing (on-stage) to the theme song. (Kathie and I confined our dancing to the aisles.) We are having a great time, and appreciate how much we see God in your kids!

David: On Tuesday we began staining a deck for a family with special needs. They have a 13 year old daughter who is disabled. She can’t walk or talk. Her mother also has some health issues. We began the process of staining yesterday and will finish today. The family is very nice and making the job easy for us. They also have a pool, and so they will let us swim today after we finish the work. Everyone is ragging me about having a cushy assignment.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Day 1 by the Youth Group

Daniel: It’s hot. Hi Mom and Dad and Steve. Love you. We moved a bunch of desks and bookcases for a Catholic priest’s home. Our crew members are nice.

Kristen: hi everybody! I miss you all! WE have had loads of fun but (sorry mom) I got a paint stain on a pair of my blue jeans! People have been making fun of my southern accent and my FERRCRACKER! When we get in the car we play the JEEP GAME! It is so fun because New York has loads of Jeeps! I love it here so far and I can’t wait to see Ya’ll! Can you believe they don’t say ya’ll or sucker in New York!! THE AMISH PEOPLE WERE SO COOL! Well I love you and miss you all! I love you, dawn, with all my heart and I miss her little smile! Everybody is so nice and I’ve already made new friends!!! Love you all! BYE!!

Lauren: WHADDUP PLAYER, haha. The car ride was smooth, tight quarters, but livable. We enjoy all the weird road signs (Gorham [= ). It’s been really hot up in “hurr”. We got a shower today [Monday]. I did Avalanche Ranch, again, it was fun, they weren’t as enthusiastic as Kathie and Lisa. I can’t wait until tomorrow, free night. Ohkay done. [=

Stephanie: Hey, Stokesdale! It’s soooo fun up here!! The ride up here went by really fast because I slept for a lot of it. Even so, I am so tired!!! We got our crew assignments last night. At first, I was really ticked off because no else from Crossroads was in my crew. For all of last night and this morning, I hardly said anything to my crew. (Shocking, I know.) But as the day went on, I started talking more and found out that the people in my crew are really a lot of fun!!!! My crew and I helped with migrant farmers’ kids. They’re all Spanish. I didn’t know how much English they spoke, so it was weird for a while. After a while, the kids started talking more and it was a lot of fun. In the afternoon, we painted a storage building. I’m sooooooo tired but it’s really fun!!!!!!!!!!

Meredith: The trip so far has been pretty good so far. Its NOTHING like what I expected. There are not as many people I expected, but I‘m cool with that. My crew’s project involves working with people from an assisted living center. Some of them have AHMAZING stories. I miss being back home in north Carolina. Everybody makes fun of our accents, that we didn’t even know we had.

Stacey: The trip up to New York went pretty good, but it was pretty tight. We had some pretty interesting conversations and we made up a game where we yell JEEP! when we see a jeep. Our room is small but still fun to be with each other. My work crew is amazing, I love them. We are going to a nursing home and planting flowers, pulling weeds, and just working in the gardens. I think it’s hilarious how the people up call sodas pop. Haha. Well, so far I have had fun.

Brianna: Hey yall!!!!! I’m a southerner!!!! It has been really fun so far!! The trip up here was sooooo fun!! But it was kinda cramped. Our van played the random game where someone says a word and the next person says something that reminds them of that word. Some of the words were Soooooo random!! But it was fun. Sometime we played the JEEP!!! game where you yell JEEP when you see a JEEP!!! Oh my gosh!! So any way I like my crew and the place that im working. Im working at a place called The VA medical center. One of the mottos here at the camp Is “Work nice, be nice!!!” and Ken is like, going overboard with saying that to us!! But its all good!! You know how he likes to tease us and stuff. I miss y’all mom and dad and Michael!! And all my friends that will see this maybe. See you when I get home on Friday!!!

Rebecca: Ok, well I’m having a pretty good time. I thought that I wouldn’t like it at all but it’s pretty cool. I’ve met a lot of new people and one that’s blind who is really cool. I’m really tired and the sleeping arrangements aren’t the best but I think we’ll manage. Anyways I’m having fun and actually talking to people I don’t even know when most of the time I wouldn’t even talk to anyone. But that’s all so peace out and see you peeps when I return.

Cecily: My favorite part of the trip up here was the seeing the Amish people and the giant marsh-Lellows and the JEEP game!! JEEP!! JEEP!!! The sleeping arrangements aren’t amazing or anything close. The food has been pretty good so far... but I’ve only had pizza and cereal. My work crew has been working at this assisted living place (for old people) and we played games with them and listened to their stories. That was interesting. Its been pretty hot. Oh yeah the WORST part is the whole WAKING UP AT 5:30!!! I hate that!! Other than that.. its been good so far.

Lisa: Canandaigua is a beautiful little town; it’s very similar to our area of NC. Of course they don’t “talk” like we do. Everybody wants to hear us speak! My crew delivers lunches to low income kids at area playgrounds. There are five others in my crew (all girls) and we are enjoying getting to know one another.

David: This is a fun place. It has the feel of a small resort town. Lake Canandaigua is right at the south end of town. Our crew went to help a disabled lady by cleaning her house. The first thing she wanted us to do was clean her ceiling. No kidding. Her house was actually quite clean, and I know why. She had us pull out her furniture and dust the backs. She was very grateful for our help. We’ll be helping someone else tomorrow. My crew includes five kids, and all of us are from different states.

Ken: Whasssuppp! Crossroads Family!!!! We had a great day today. I met my crew: Travis, Jenna, Rikki, Lauren and Tim. We spent the day painting at an assisted living home, and we also got to fellowship with the residents of the house. I am tired, but energized by the youth’s exuberant attitudes and giving spirit. Please pray for us, but so
far we are all being blessed in numerous ways. Talk at ya tomorrow.

Kathie: Hi. I am working nice and being nice. I read the book. I stepped in sewage, was stung by stinging nettles, and scratched by briars. Life is good (actually, it is!)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

NY, Here We Come!

In just a few hours, our youth group will begin the journey to Canandaigua, NY for our first mission trip. We will be helping disabled veterans, special needs children and helping out in ways that we don’t know yet.

Please pray for us as we travel and as we minister. We will be meeting people and impacting them for the kingdom of God. And we will also be touched by the Holy Spirit. He’s got plenty to do in our lives as well.

We have nine teenagers and four adults traveling in two minivans. We’ll leave early, early Sunday morning and return on Friday, Aug. 3, around 9 p.m.

If time and internet access allow, I’ll keep you posted on our adventure!

Wake-Up Call

I was shocked to hear about Wake Forest basketball coach Skip Prosser’s death on Thursday. He was such a straight shooter. He never thought too highly of himself and he never made excuses. If his team did poorly, he admitted it and took responsibility. When his team did well, he congratulated them and gave them the credit.

He truly cared about his players. He wanted them to play well, but more importantly, he wanted them to develop as individuals. He viewed his job as teaching. Basketball was the skill he taught.

I appreciate what he did to turn the Joel Coliseum into a rocking place to play, with noise and spirit. He really got the students into the action. Go Deacs!

For Skip to die at age 56 is a real gut-check for me. He was only 11 years older than I am. I have been listening all my life to the truisms about life being too short. Yeah, yeah. But I think I’m beginning to get it, to understand it. Even if we are in good health and stay active, we are not guaranteed another day.

All we have is today, and we may not have all of that.

Our days are in God’s hands, of course. He gives us our time and our talents. We are merely stewards of these resources. What matters is whether we invest them wisely. We don’t necessarily need to do more. We may need to do less, slow down and enjoy the moments. We may need to cut out a certain activity, just because our time is more valuable than that. We may need to begin doing something that’s important. As we seek the Lord, he will show us.

Skip Prosser (1950-2007) now has both dates filled in, in the parentheses after his name. We, the living, have only the first date filled in. Unless the Lord returns soon, we will all eventually have the second date filled in. Then we will be history.

That is really humbling to me. It makes me want to use these days and years to enjoy Jesus and share him with abandon.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Wah Hoo!

Our Vacation Bible School was such a blast! Today we gave our Worship Celebration time to the Avalanche Ranchers, and they showed us that they went on a wild ride through God’s word.

All the crew leaders and station leaders put their hearts into it and had a fun time with the kids. The teen helpers helped out the crew leaders, giving them a hand with the campers. I think the teens also enjoyed the wild ride.

I enjoyed watching the kids laugh and play, all while learning about Jesus. They looked with amazement at the Bible stories and special demonstrations. They danced with abandon during the Avalanche Ranch songs. They enjoyed getting others wet during our Ranch games.

Today, they shared it all with their families – well, except for getting wet. They could not wait to bring their parents in on the ride. God shared his love, and he used us in the process.

We also celebrated the baptism of three young ladies today. And then we had a pool party. God has been at work all around us! Wah Hoo!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

New Words

I read in the paper today that new words have been added in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. They added words like “crunk,” a type of Southern-style rap music; “speed dating,” a way of channel surfing people of the opposite sex; and “ginormous,” a hybrid word, combining giant and enormous. It means, “extremely large.” Duh.

They added these and about 100 other words to the dictionary. They want to make sure that words are not passing fads, but are truly becoming part of the vernacular. They check for usage of the words in informal and formal writing to make sure that the words are broadly accepted.

There are some critics who insist on the purity of language and oppose such additions to the dictionary. They seem to advocate virtually no change in vocabulary at all.

However, reading just about any older book will show you how the English language has changed. I can read a book from the 1950s and quickly pick up on turns of phrase that we no longer use. It seems the older the book, the more glaring the contrast between “now-speak” and “then-speak.” Have you read a Shakespeare play lately? Did people really talk like that in the 1500s?

The New Testament is a collection of writings from the first century. These are old writings in the Greek language. We don’t talk that way anymore. Even people who speak Greek don’t talk that way anymore. But the NT was written in the language of the day. It was written in Koiné Greek, the street language, the slang language of the day. It was intended for a ginormous audience of regular people.

That’s why we need to keep expressing the truth of the Bible in common, everyday language. Ordinary people need to hear its message. The important thing is that the message from God has not changed. Human nature has not changed. We still need redemption, and Jesus is the only Redeemer.

Someone once said that language is like a river. It constantly flows. You can dam up a river, but then it is no longer a river. You can try to stop all changes in language, but then you just have an obsolete dictionary.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

We Made It!

Our drive to NY was smooth. We made good time and had no problem.
We are adjusting to our living arrangements and feeding schedules. Walmart is close by, and that has helped.

Today we begin our various work projects. We’ll let you know more after today!

Ken: Things are awesome. We are going to “Work nice, be nice.”

Lisa: We are going to “Look in the book.”

Kathie: Jeep! JEEP!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Of Mice and Men

My family and I had a magical time Disney World earlier this month. It was the first time for our kids, who are now 10 and 13 years old. For our first day, at the Magic Kingdom, the weather was pleasant, the crowd was smaller than we expected, and we were blown away by the quality of everything.

When we first walked down Main Street USA, we could see Cinderella’s Castle, and we could hear the songs and dialogue of a live Disney show. As we made our way to the castle, we could see the performers on stage at the foot of the building. It was like dropping into a Broadway show, outside.

I was most impressed with the audio, because you could hear the show clearly from the other end of Main Street, about a quarter of a mile away. It was clear, intelligible and just the right volume. As we got closer, the sound was just as clear and never got too loud. How do they do that? I could not even find the speakers (at first).

Well, the rest of the day was amazing, too. The rides were fun, the waits mostly short, and we got to take it all in. We even saw Capt. Jack Sparrow teaching 5-year-old boys to outwit pirates.

Throughout the day, I kept noticing the references to dreams, wishes, magic and believing. “When you wish upon a star/ Makes no difference who you are…” Looking around, I kept seeing the evidence of wishes and dreams coming true. The shows, cast members (Disney employees), displays, rides, stores—they all were full of joy. How could they create such an environment of total bliss? OK, there were some less-than-perfect parts of the experience, but I willingly suspended my disbelief.

With a purely humanistic paradigm, Disney has created a place where kids and families can come for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. They did that for us. But they do that 365 days a year. They keep up the quality, the energy, the enthusiasm. And they do this with mere human willpower.

Now, imagine if we could dream the dreams of God, not Walt Disney. If we could share the love of Jesus, not Mickey Mouse. If we could pray, not wish; if we could be full of the Holy Spirit, not sprinkled with pixie dust; if we could trust Providence, not fate.

Imagine if God got a hold of our creativity. What dreams would he bring?

God would have us do more than show people a good time. He would have us show his love, redemption, healing, restoration and forgiveness. He would have us show the world how glorious, perfect and righteous he is. He would bring his joy to all who will believe. He would do amazing works in families, marriages, communities and nations. His work will make Walt Disney’s seem Mickey Mouse.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

What Kind of Wisdom?

Solomon seems like one of the most contradictory characters in the Bible. On the one hand, he is the wisest man ever, living with wealth, power, and political peace. On the other hand, he makes some of the most foolish decisions which led to the division of the kingdom. If he was so wise, then how could he be so foolish?

As I was reading through the scriptures on Solomon, I noticed something I had never seen before. Remember that as a new king Solomon was worried about how to run the kingdom. He felt inadequate for the job. As he was worshipping God (1 Kings 3), God allows Solomon to make a wish: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Solomon does not ask for riches or fame or power. He simply asks for a discerning heart to govern his people. In response, God promises to give him a wise and discerning heart, and to give him riches and honor as well.

As the story of Solomon unfolds, we see him running a vast government and erecting great buildings. His wisdom in running his country is so great that he becomes an international celebrity. The Queen of Sheba visits Solomon in 1 Kings 10, and she declares that he is even wiser than she had heard. She asks him all kinds of questions, and he has an answer for everything. She declares that his officials must be very happy, serving under such a wise king.

Solomon’s reign is a time of peace and great prosperity.

But this wise man is not so wise with his own family and his faith. He knows all about running a country, but fails miserably in more important matters. First Kings 11 gives us a glimpse into his home life. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Imagine what his family meetings were like! His children would have to introduce themselves! Many of these wives worshipped foreign gods, and Solomon accommodated their various faiths. He built altars and places of worship for all his foreign wives.

In all this, God was not pleased. Duh. God forbade the Israelites from intermarrying with the people of Canaan at all. Solomon obviously ignored that piece of wisdom. As a result, his wives led him astray spiritually.

Remember, though, that Solomon only asked for wisdom about running his country. God gave him abundant wisdom for governing. But Solomon was sorely lacking in wisdom about faithfulness to God. He made foolish decisions. He probably thought he could do no wrong. He did as he pleased in marrying for political purposes.

His foolish choices led him to a life of emptiness and frustration. Read the book of Ecclesiastes to see how joyless this rich and wise man was.

After Solomon’s death, the kingdom fell apart. His son was clueless about how to rule – how ironic – and the kingdom of Israel was divided.

The best kind of wisdom is not just about doing a good job. The best kind of wisdom keeps us in touch with God for every aspect of living. Jesus wants abundant life for us. He wants us to live in love, joy and peace. That comes from staying connected with the Lord. That’s real “abundant life.”

Thursday, May 31, 2007

My Pen

I have a special ballpoint pen. I’ve had it for a long time, probably 10 years or more. It’s got three colors of ink in it and a mechanical pencil. That way I can use blue ink to mark up my books and black ink to write notes and write in my journal. And I only have to carry one pen.

I used to carry this pen in my shirt pocket until the clip got too weak to work well. Now it can slip out of my shirt pocket when I lean over. And these days I don’t wear shirts with pockets as often as I used to. So now I carry this pen in my pants pocket, with my car keys. But somehow, this pen keeps trying to escape. Once I got home from soccer practice and my pen was gone. I had to go over to the ball park in the dark and look for it. There it was in the grass at the edge of the parking lot. Must have escaped when I pulled out my car keys.

Often I have lost this pen in my car. Sometimes it can slip out of my pocket while I’m driving. How sneaky. I come inside and reach for my pen, and it’s gone. In a panic, I go back out to the car. I’m wondering if I left it somewhere or lost it. Where all have I been? Then I find it right there in the driver’s seat.

But there have been times when it’s not in the driver’s seat. Once we were at Applebee’s, and my daughter wanted a pen to use. I reluctantly gave her my pen. (You are so determined to carry that pocketbook, but you never have a pen in it. What’s the use?) Well, she indulged her artistic spirit, even making a fun note for the waitress. But alas, she left my pen on the table. When we get home, I’m hitting the roof, because she’s so irresponsible. I call the restaurant, glad that I left a decent tip, and fortunately they have found it. I make another trip to Greensboro to pick it up.

Once I was on an advertising sales call at a funeral home in Madison. I left the pen on the funeral director’s desk. When I get home, wondering where the pen could be, I immediately call him back. A woman answers. I explain what I need. She puts me on hold and goes to look. I wait. When she returns, she says incredulously, “I found an old, black pen with the paint mostly worn off.” Her voice seems to say, “I thought you were looking for a fine writing instrument. All I could find was this.”

Many times I have decided that my pen, this time, is forever lost. I was doing an interview at a cheering gym in Kernersville last winter. I felt the pen in my pocket as I walked in the building with my daughter. I instinctively check for it, lest it escape. After the interview, I walked to the car and unlocked it. I checked again for the pen, but it was gone! I felt an adrenaline rush. It could really be gone, this time. Only moments ago, I knew where it was. I go back into the gym where it’s about 80 degrees. I ask all the people I interviewed. No, they haven’t seen a pen. What’s the big deal? I’m really feeling low, walking back to the car again. It is truly gone this time. I’m walking along, consoling myself, when my daughter says, “Daddy! Here it is!” Yes! It had jumped out in the middle of the gravel parking lot.. Maybe it is wondering if I really care about it.

Just last weekend my mother and I stopped by to visit a cousin. I sat in a cushy, leather recliner in his den. We talked about family and old times. When I got home, my pen was nowhere to be found. Not in the car seat, not in the driveway. So, yet again, I called for my pen. I left a message on my cousin’s answering machine. A few hours later, my cousin’s wife calls. Yes! She had found it. She had to look very carefully. It was caught in the chair cushion. She may never have found it if she hadn’t known to look for it. Then she says, “I love finding things.” To her it was a treasure hunt, a special mission.

My pen may act like it wants to escape. But somehow it always seems to make it back home. Maybe it really wants to be home with me. Maybe it just needs to be wanted. Of course, maybe it’s just a hunk of metal with no feelings. I know that it is. But it still has value to me.

I think there’s at least one lesson about God’s love in there.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Give That Noodle!

Sharing God’s love is fun. On Sunday we served at Humphrey’s Ridge and Carolina Marina. We gave out nearly 100 pool noodles, gave dozens of bottles of water, picked up trash and washed windshields. We also gave away a few Bibles.

There is blessing in giving. Giving is so unexpected in our culture. Sure, we’ll give to the needy or victims of disaster, but rarely do we find people who just want to give. Giving makes us more like God. “For God so loved the world that he GAVE…” I think I understand better the delight that God experiences as he shares his goodness with us. I think that I also understand the frustration when people treat a gift with suspicion. They think there’s a catch. They think that because many times Christians have given them that impression.

As followers of Jesus we are representatives of his character. We want people to see that Jesus is bringing good news. He wants to give us his love, so that it can flow out to others. He does call us to obedience, of course, but it is obedience borne of love for him. Serving him gives us joy – the joy of living unselfishly.

The project was so fun that it was hard to pull away from the marinas to gather again at the Long House. It seemed like we were just getting started. In a way we are just getting started. Our study of “Outflow” is designed to change our lifestyles permanently, so that we naturally live for ways to share God’s love.

I’m looking forward to our big Outflow Celebration this Sunday! Let me know if you have a story you want to share. It will be great to hear about all that God is doing!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Faith and Sunshine

As we look forward to our Outflow service project this weekend, we are working behind the scenes to prepare. As you may know, we plan to cancel our normal Sunday worship time on May 20 and go out and serve our community.

We will go to two local marinas on Belews Lake and give out pool noodles, wash windshields, pick up trash and serve in any other ways we can. There’s no hidden agenda. We are simply trying to share God’s love with our community. God loves everyone, but not everyone knows it. So we are giving and serving to show God’s love.

Now, Sunday morning at the marina can be a very lonely place, if it is raining. We won’t find anybody there to serve. This community service time does depend on the weather. But we are moving ahead in faith. We believe that God will take care of the weather. I have been very encouraged as we have planned the event, because we are looking ahead with eyes of faith. “Let’s just trust God to take care of the weather,” people are saying.

We are willing to plow ahead with a plan, knowing that we can’t control one critical variable. But we do know that we can trust God. Even if the weather is rotten on Sunday, God is worthy of our trust.

Admittedly, we are not betting the farm on good weather. We do have a rain plan. But when it comes time to lay it all on the line as we follow Jesus in faith, we need to be ready trust him. We need to follow him into situations that could turn disastrous if he doesn’t show up.

Of course it’s safer not to take any risks. But then we would never see the glory of God revealed in our lives.

Trusting God to take care of the weather, rain or shine, is a relatively small thing. But will we trust him with that financial decision, that difficult choice we must make, that career move, that difficult conversation? Will we trust him with our time and our abilities?

Let’s work on trusting him with the small things. Let’s prepare to trust him with the big things. Let’s expect to see him at work in amazing ways!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The God Who Knows

In reading the One Year Bible yesterday I came to the story of Hannah, who desperately wanted to have children. Her husband’s other wife was cruel to her and picked on her for being childless. In the story, she went with her family to Shiloh, so that they could worship. She went to the Tabernacle one day to pray. She poured out her heart to God, begging him to let her conceive. She promised to dedicate her son to God, if only God would so bless her.

In time, she does bear a son. She nurses him and weans him. Then she takes him to Shiloh, where he can give his life in service to God. She celebrates when she gives her son to God. She declares (1 Samuel 2:3) that, “the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed.” The Lord knew her heart for him. He knew the suffering she endured at the hands of her rival. He knew her loneliness and helplessness.

God knows. He knows it all. Nothing ever occurs to God – he knows it already. Ironically, nothing is ironic to God. Nothing is unexpected to him. (He obviously delights in irony among humanity because the Bible is full of ironic stories. In Esther, the man who built the gallows is hanged on it. In Genesis Joseph, the runt brother, ends up as the big boss. There’s tons of irony in the Bible. Irony works on us because we don’t know everything. Unexpected things happen to us all the time.)

God knows. He knows my heart, just as surely as he knew Hannah’s. He knows my struggles. He knows who helps me and who wants to trip me up. It’s not a secret to God. He also knows the crud that’s in my sinful nature. He knows how often I indulge my selfishness. He knows what I really deserve.

God also knows that the heart he gave me is good. It is brought to life by the Holy Spirit who lives in me. The heart he gave me is life. “Above all else,” Solomon tells us, “guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

He knows everything, and he knows me. He is the standard by which my deeds are measured. Whoa. I really need to get to know the One who knows. He hasn’t forgotten us. He longs for us to experience intimacy with him, the intimacy made possible by the death and resurrection of his Son. He knows us, and he wants us to know him.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

What a Party

Our Homemade Ice Cream Party on Sunday afternoon (April 29) was a blast! God blessed us with a perfect day – beautiful sunshine, hot in the sun, cool in the shade. We had plenty of homemade ice cream, toppings, and drinks.

The water slide was a major league hit. The kids had a great time with it, even the older kids. The background music, the kids shouting and playing, the laughter of friends, the whipped cream – it all made for a picture-perfect day!

Then having the band playing and “fans” cheering was great. I thought the band sounded good, even if I was singing a little. I do know it was lots of fun, and great to see people enjoying the music. I’ll have to work on my rendition of “Rocky Top.” We also had a guest fiddle player, adding a great new sound.

And of course the flamingo display was tacky and memorable. The Crossroads Youth invited us all to have our friends’ homes “flocked” secretly with dozens of lovely pink flamingos. They have raised over $300 for their mission trip to NY this summer. Some fortunate folks have already been flocked. Who will be next?

Back to the party…Thank you to all the folks who helped with the set up. The youth and many adults showed up early to put out tables and get things ready. Thank you to the family who shared their giant slide with us. Thanks to all who helped move our music equipment to the porch and back.

I saw lots of people I did not know. We did a great job of inviting people to come. How come nobody showed up that I invited? Oh well…

Last Sunday will stand out in my memory as one of those perfect days. God answered our prayers as we asked him to pour out his Spirit at the party. He showed up, and we celebrated him. He increased our joy and he was glorified. He keeps making life better and better!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Life Ethic

For centuries in the West, we have pursued life in the context of the “Protestant work ethic.” Although we may not know a formal definition of the term, we all know that hard work is important. My grandmother used to affirm hard work by saying, “Aren’t you smart?!” Working hard is smart. No argument there.

I recently read comments about Alexis de Tocqueville’s observations on American society. In Democracy in America (1835), the Frenchman notes many of the qualities that made America a great country. But he also notes that Americans work constantly. From the earliest days of our country there was a very high value placed upon being industrious. We still praise those who work 80 hour weeks.

I believe that we should work hard. God gave Adam work to do, even before the Fall. Work is good.

But God himself rested after six days of work. Rest is good. God made the Sabbath for man, Jesus said. Somehow in our culture, we have lost the notion that rest is good. Even in our leisure, we feel that we must be active. Ever returned from vacation so tired that you couldn’t wait to get back to work and rest?

I believe that we need to place above the Protestant work ethic a new, higher ethic. We need a Christian life ethic. This ethic encourages us to work, to rest, to love God wholeheartedly, and to love those around us. Life is more than the work we do. Real living has more to do with relationships than accomplishments. Ironically, when our relationships are good, our accomplishments are even better. But the things close to our hearts are relationships, not points on a résumé.

A Christian life ethic takes into account our full spectrum of stewardship. It includes work and rest, and every aspect of life. How well do we receive and give love? How fully do we experience joy? How well do we demonstrate the peace of Christ ruling in our hearts? How well to we reflect the glory of the God who dwells in us through his Spirit?

Let’s work hard. And let’s remember that there is more to life than work. Let your life ethic promote real living – in you and others. Jesus came that we might have life, and to have it overflowing! How’s your life ethic?