December 17, 2005

Mine's Bigger

In a land where bigger is better, social acceptance supposedly rests on the amount of cool stuff you have. Or at least that is what advertisers want you to think. "Buy this colone and chicks will flock to you!" "Don't be caught dead in anything other than our jeans!" "Nothing beats a Lexus!"

Adding to the need for acceptance, they also play to our need to lord ourselves. Driving by the local Wendy's yesterday, I noticed their sign read, "Customize your burger!" Another burger joint consistantly says, "Your way right away!". I remember the day when you went into McDonalds and you were shocked if the burger you ordered wasn't sitting behind the clerk in it's nice styrofoam box, waiting. It wasn't your way right away then. Oh how times have changed.

We have moved to dangerous places in how our culture/society sees stuff. We have changed how we see our personal space. We have become self absorbed people who live to get our ways in everything we do. We use our ipods to listen to our music. We use DVRs to have exactly what we want to watch when we want to watch it. We customize our food. We buy bigger and better because that is what we are supposed to do as Americans.

Unfortunately, that ideal has infiltrated the church. In the last 40 years we have created customized ministry for music, youth, children, singles, senior citizens. We customize our worship to fit people groups and help them feel like they are "getting something" out of the service. We created multiple service times to service as many as we could on their time. I could go on.

We as the body of Christ need to check ourselves and make sure we are kingdom shaped and not world shaped. We need to make sure we are living for others--outwardly or externally focused, rather than for ourselves, inwardly or internally focused. How we live, breath, act, spend money, etc. as individuals and as the church needs to be checked by those marks.

December 7, 2005

What I Love

I love the joy that my daughter has right now in her life. I love how much energy she has and the wonder and excitement that continually flows from her being. I love how she goes to bed without a fuss, how she flails herself back knowing that I'm going to lay her down in her crib. I love how she rolls onto her side and grabs her Cat in the Hat and snuggles in, tucking the blanket under her arm.

I love the cold. The last few mornings it has been sunny. The snow glistens like diamonds. There is a beauty there that I am sure many miss. Tonight it was twinkling in the light from the parking lot. Adding to the visual beauty was the crunch and squeek of it under my feet. That is when you know it is really cold outside.

I love time at home. This past weekend I had the chance to take some time away from the office and just spend time at home. Steph wasn't feeling well, so I became Mr. Mom. I took the time to cook lunch and dinner. It was a great time to spend with the family, even though Steph didn't get to enjoy it as much.

I love home baked cookies. One of the older ladies at our church suprised me with a plate of cookies tonight. It was thanks for camping out and purchasing her and some other people Madrigal tickets in October. Included on the plate were apple/raisin filled cookies. It was heavenly and almost as good as my wife's chocolate chip cookies.

I love to sing with my daughter. While we were out shopping yesterday evening looking for some Christmas presents. When Steph ran into one of the stores, Hannah and I stayed in the car (too many times in and out of the carseat gets tiresome for her and for us). All you need to do is ask if she wants to sing a particular song and she's off. Sometimes she'll say no to a song. If you start singing it, she revolts and says no until you stop singing. It's very cute, even though it's a shade sadistic teasing her like that. Last night the only song we were allowed to sing was Old McDonald. Imagine a little two year old screaming at the top of her lungs as fast as she can, ee ii ee ii oo, with a few added ee's and ii's because she loses count. Add to that silly cow moos and chicken clucks. It is beyond priceless.

As I take in these things, these bright spots of life, I cannot but help think about some words that one of my friends, Stan, shared with me a few years ago. He was remembering back to times when his kids were young. He told me of how he used to fly his youngest into bed every night, and how he wished he had done it more often. I have only had two short years with Hannah and I cannot but wonder that I have already missed so much.

Lord, make sure that I do not lose time for the right things. Make sure I am where I need to be and catching the moments that you are blessing me with, whether it is the stillness of the snow glistening, the laughter of my precious little girl, or time on the couch relaxing to a movie with my wife. May I cherish those around me with everything I have.

November 30, 2005

Pointless In The End

Have you ever had a moment where you work hard on something, then change your mind and start over? I've had multiple moments like that over the past couple of weeks. It's annoying to me. Today I took some time to respond to email that had stacked up in my inbox. As I churned through them, I found myself struggling to write and get the details that were needed formed and ready to send. After working for some time, I would just give up because I needed other bits of info that were not available to me at the time. Another example could be my plan for the personal retreat. I had many projects I wanted to do. Instead, some things took longer and a couple of other things came up. I never really got to where I wanted to be, which was ok, but not.

It happened with this post tonight. I was going to write about the last couple of weeks in my life. There has been so much that has happened. Our church finished a 40 Days campaign that was very good. I took a personal spiritual retreat with friends. I got the chance to go to Ohio and spend time with family and friends, and in the process drive for 6 1/2 hours through a blizzard. This week I'm buried under a dinner drama at the church and Christmas preparations. All the while, I'm sleep deprived because of my own idiodicy and because of a sick daughter.

Yet, as I sat here and typed, I couldn't focus my thoughts. Maybe it is because there are too many thoughts there in my mind. Maybe its because I haven't slept as much as I need to. Maybe it is because I cannot focus because of all the stuff going on this week. Maybe it is more simple than that. Maybe I don't have anything profound to say.

I am not empty. I feel more alive in my life right now than I have in months. I see things I need and want to do. I have had the time to read some invigorating things that have really stirred the constant passions in my ministry. While I was away on my personal retreat I had some great conversations with friends about life, ministry, and everything else. The gears in my head are moving at a rapid pace trying to keep up and I can get thoughts out of my head. I simply cannot get two or three to string together into something worthwhile. I cannot get it on the outside. Maybe it is God making me mute, so to speak, so that I will shut up and listen some more.

So, with that in mind I end this post on wasted times that, while good, were pointless in the end.

November 18, 2005

Locked In

Right now I'm sitting at my desk in the office. There are 30 plus Jr. Highers running freely through our building under the supervision of part of my youth staff. It is a good crowd tonight--normal kids plus some new faces and friends. They must have stopped for sugar before they came because they are extra hyper--beyond the normal Jr. Higher hyper.

My quandry tonight is how this lock-in thing ever got started? Who thought it would be a good idea for people to hang out together until rediculous hours of the night for fun? Who invented such games as flashlight tag and bloody murder? And, why are we playing such games at a lock-in? Why did Little Ceasers come up with the hot and ready $5 deal? Why do we do this so often? Wouldn't a lock-in during the day serve parents better than taking their kids at night time when they are sleeping? Would Jesus be crazy enough to do a lock-in?

I guess I'm getting old.

November 14, 2005

Are We Really Listening?

Right now I'm listening to my new minidisc player. I started recording our services at the church so I can give constructive criticism to my sound guys. If you have ever been to our worship auditorium, you will know that our room is horrible. Without the chairs set up, we have almost a 4 second echo. That is bad in acousitcal terms. Add to that non-musician sound people and a bunch of rock and roll stars in my praise band and you have the recipe for not so good things. They do ok and we're working to get them better. We have some new people also interested in joining in. That is exciting!

With sound, its interesting what perceptions people have. Every musician has their own opinion. Every 3rd or 4th musician thinks their opinion was authored by God Almighty himself. (We musicians are quite peculiar creatures) Add to that the common complaint of everything being too loud from the old people and too soft from the young people. All the while, sound techs are caught in the middle.

One would hope that things were not so much a tug of war in the church. When we stand on such phrases like, "love one another" and "let the first be last and the last be first", one would think that the church is the place where everyone is forgiving, accepting, and willing to minimize what their opinions and wants for the benefit of others. However, while we as the church are very schooled in hearing and comprehending, we are dumbfounded with the concept of understanding and applying it to our lives. We are what I like to call soapboxers. We stand on our soapbox and spew out our opinions for all to hear, accept, and take hold of. Somehow, this affects our ability to hear and appreciate others opinions like earplugs. Jesus called people like this Pharisees.

So tonight as I listen, I am filled with many emotions. The sound was not that bad this week, which gives me joy and hope. Not all together singers who sometimes muddy up the melody and harmony brings me concern. Conversations that I heard before the service cause me a fair amount of frustration. It puts it all in perspective and helps me realize that we don't have it all together. We are getting there, slowly. It also helps me realize that we don't really listen to ourselves. Listening in music helps you play as a band rather than individuals playing instruments. Listening in singing makes a great piece of music on a page come alive with a unity of multiple singers. Listening in sound means everyone is heard and present in the mix.

What does listening in the church sound like? Does it mean we actually quiet ourselves to listen to the lives and opinions of others? Does it mean we will actually put others before ourselves because "love one another" is something more than three words on the page? Will it cause us to be reflective and mindful of our own words and actions, so that we are not being soapboxers? If the church were to open her ears and really listen, I honestly think we would be different. We would at least be moving in the right direction instead of moving in wrong ways or standing still.

Are you listening? What do you hear? Or, are you drowning out the life around you with the sound of your voice, your music, and whatever else you claim to be yours. May we as the church continually remember that we must lose our life so that we can put on Christ and live!

November 9, 2005

What the. . .

Sometimes I simply do not get the world we live in.

On my Yahoo homepage, I have the most viewed pictures from Yahoo's news site. This helps me stay somewhat up to date with the larger world outside of my miniscule existence and sometimes provides funny pictures, like the pope scratching his nose, though it looks like he's picking it.

Today, there were two pictures of a fashion show. This is not necessarily uncommon. When there are fashion shows, there are normally a couple of pictures that make the top of the list. However, this fashion show was different. It still had way to skinny models with way too little clothing—these were very Victoria Secretish. The uncommon thing was the caption:

A model parades in front of street children, some of whom are sniffing glue, in the drug-infested 'Barrio Triste' (Sad Neighborhood) in downtown Medellin in Colombia November 7, 2005. The event was organized to entertain the children by a member of a local charity that helps children in Barrio Triste by providing food, clothes and cleaning facilities.

Organizing something for street children is one thing. But, organizing an underwear fashion show is another thing. I don’t really get how that can be helpful to the street children, especially the ones that are sniffing glue. How does a local charity that provides food and clothing come to the understanding that this could be a positive thing? How does that conversation even come about? How does anyone with even an 1/8 of a brain come to think that it would be a good idea?

Maybe it was a marketing scheme to draw the street kids to the charity so they can reach more kids.

October 27, 2005

An Empty House

Last night I was home alone. Steph and Hannah went off to spend a couple of days with our friend Sandi. So, I found myself at work late--unfortunately. Then, when I came home, I continued the laundry I had started earlier that day, did the dishes for my wife, and a host of other things.

It is a bittersweet thing when my girls are not in the house. It is nice to have the peace and quiet to crank out work. It is nice to be able to crank up the stereo really loud and listen to the likes of Steve Taylor's Squint and Billy Joel's Greatest Hits.

It is bad when they are not there because I normally stay up way to late. Because I was doing laundry, I was up until 3 or so. I ended up laying on the living room floor between the speakers on the stereo falling asleep to Kenny Loggins' Leap of Faith (one of my favorite cds). I really enjoy falling asleep to music even though I don't do it that often. I really only do it when I'm away from home or when my wife is gone. I don't know why, that's just the way it happens.

The other bad thing about them being gone is that I miss them. There is nothing better than coming home after a day of work and spending the evening on the floor with my daughter playing, singing, and giggling. The house is so empty when they are gone. It is peaceful, but missing some of the life that is necessary to survive.

There is something about being alone that I really enjoy. But, at the same time, I realize that I am alone and away from everything. When I am alone, my mind is freed more than normal to wander to the dark corners of my brain. I become more aware of the inner battle that I am continually fighting to keep my mind in the light. I notice this when I'm at home alone or even away on the other side of town. It makes me long to never be alone.

Needless to say, I glad my girls are coming home today.

October 14, 2005

The Kingdom and the "Good News"

One of my friends wrote a great article on a better understanding of the Kingdom of God and the "good news". Check it out here.

October 11, 2005

Embarrassed By the Church

Some day I'm going to write a book about all the embarrassing things that, in my opinion, the church does. One easy example would be people protesting at alternative lifestyle rallies and holding "Turn or Burn" signs. Many other things could also be added to the list. Things like the youth group/mime troupe that we saw performing on the boardwalk this summer at Virginia Beach. Who is going to stop and watch them mime God's love? What about the church in Florida recently where the choir continued to sing when the minister got up to preach. He ended up calling the police to have them removed for trespassing because they wouldn't stop singing. It seems that he wants to give $100,000 of their $360,000 insurance settlement to another church that was also damaged by one of the recent hurricanes. The people in the choir want all the money for their church, so they sang so the minister couldn't speak. When he was interviewed, the minister said, "we are still preaching God's word." Really? Are there not more effective ways of being and sharing God's Kingdom? Or, the newest thing I've seen is Jesus Poker Chips. Maybe we should use them when we get play poker with our friends. Sometimes I wonder what people are thinking--like the guy I saw a couple of months ago pulling out of a church parking lot after service in a Dodge Viper. Would Jesus drive/own a Dodge Viper?

I really think we as the church all to often miss the point. I think there are better things we can be doing with our time, money, and energy. What if we were to go to the Pride rallies and hand out cold drinks or provide snacks because of God's love? What if we as the church could quit fighting amongst ourselves and focus on loving the communities around us regardless of how pagan they are? What if we were to actually think theologically about our actions and possessions? Would our living change? Would our perception of the outside world change?

Probably a better question that we need to start with is who does God want us to be? How does he want us to act? How are we shaping our lives to die to ourselves and put on Christ? Then we should look at the "good news"? What is it that God actually wants us to share? Yes, these are hard questions to ask and we'll have to look for answers and do much reflection. But, if we are going to be God's people, we need to BE God's people in everything and share the "good news" that Jesus had for the world he came to. In doing so, we will probably not miss the point as much as we do now. . . nor be as embarrassing.

September 28, 2005

A Sorrowful God

Today I was reading in 1 Samuel about the life of Saul. Saul was a knucklehead. He never did anything right. All I can picture is this tall, gangly guy that is the odd duck of Israel. I think God was using his divine sarcasm here. "You want a king? I'll give you a king!" Then he quickly shouts to a couple of his angels, "Go find me the biggest goofball you can!!"

God chooses, whether reluctantly or not, to use Saul to lead his people since his people didn't get that he wanted to be their King. God sent his spirit onto Saul and empowered him. I think Saul would have been a great king. But, it seems that Saul begins to get in the way of what God is looking for and wanting. Saul messes with the order of things by doing his own sacrifices and not waiting for Samuel. He doesn't fully carry out God's orders in anialating the Amalekites. After that event, God becomes sorrowful that he has made Saul king. Eventually, God removes his spirit from Saul and moves on to David, son of Jesse.

This morning I had breakfast with a couple of ministry partners. We spent some time talking about the the church, our ministries, and the struggles that go along with serving the church. The conversation encouraged me to not be discouraged and as frustrated as I am.

Then I come back to my office for my devotions and I read 1 Samuel 15 about God being sorrowful for making Saul king. I wonder if God is ever sorrowful for the ministry that I've done. I wonder if he is sorrowful for the way his church exists. Are we being what he wants us to be? Has he removed his blessing away and moved on to someone else, another people better focused on being his people in the now? I don't think he has. But, I do think he has the urge to take us out behind the woodshed or to the bathroom for a proverbial beating to straighten us out. Why would he? I know I have the urge from time to time.

I need to find better ways to express myself and help the church be more like the church that God wants it to be. I need to be like my mother--stern, yet extremely loving, and not afraid to carry around a wooden spoon and beat me when I was out of line. May we live in ways that bring God joy and pride, not sorrow.

September 20, 2005

Orchestrated Chaos

Tonight I spent some time in the ER with the family of one of our members at church. It seems that he had a brain aneurysm in the shower. They rushed him to the hospital and he is currently in the Neuro ICU. There are talks of surgery and who knows what else to relieve the pressure in his head.

While we were there comforting the family, we congregated in the hallway. This put us in the path of everyone coming into the ER. It was a busy night tonight. Doctors, nurses, and technicians were all scurrying around doing their jobs. It was totally chaotic, yet probably exactly what was supposed to happen. How they keep track of so many things and care for so many people at one time is beyond me, let alone the intricacies of the procedures and evaluations they do on so many different types of needs. It is a blessing that they can orchestrate so many things with so many people in such a way.

If you would, please take a moment to pray for Ken and his family when you read this. He is loved by all and the center of the family. They need him and he needs them. Pray for us as the people of South to be able to minister to them with everything we have.

September 6, 2005

Labor Day And Other Things

Yesterday we celebrated Labor Day--I guess another day off before we hit the fall. I'm not opposed to Labor Day. I like days off. It's just interesting to me that we have to make a national holiday to get a day off.

Labor Day means smaller numbers at church. Most of the time this holds true. However, the last few years at the church I serve, larger than normal Labor Day crowds have been present. This means one of two things this year. One, our people didn't want to pay for traveling gas, or two, they had traveled way too much during the summer that they felt the need to stay home.

As for other things at church--we challenged our people to help out with the hurricane relief financially through a couple of and We are also planning on collecting and sending a truckload of stuff in the next couple of weeks when we know more of what the people need, even though only a handful of our hundreds of people have asked about helping out or have even seemed concerned for those in the Gulf.

In a conversation with one of our people concerning this, they said, "we could have a church wide garage sale to raise money for the hurricane victims. I have plenty of junk to donate to it." Now, I know this person was being very considerate at the time. It just didn't sit well in my head. Here people are in another part of our country with nothing and all we can think about to help them is to sell garage sale type trinkets to raise money.

When are we going to get a clue and stop thinking about ourselves? When is the church going to stop serving itself and living for others? We have a lot to learn.

I have a lot to learn.

August 26, 2005

Stopping For The Dolphins

Yesterday, Steph, Hannah, and I spent our second day at Virginia Beach. We are on vacation this week, seeing my sister and her family in Williamsburg, VA. They are close enough to the beach that we get to stay with them and drive to the beach each day.

Virginia Beach is an oddity to me. It is a long beach that has been encroached on by everything imaginable. Hotels line Atlantic Avenue from one end of the beach to the other. One can choose from low budget to the middle of the road, to full blown expensive. Around the hotels are various little shops, restaurants, ice cream shops, and what not to help ease you out of more money. If it is not food or trinkets that you are interested in, then venture into one of the three haunted house style establishments or pause at a temporary tattoo shop and get your sweetheart's name inked on to your skin.

Out on the beach, it is not much better. Umbrella and lounge chair renters work to make your time on the beach a little more enjoyable. I did not ask to see how much either were. I came prepared with my sister's Budweiser umbrella (an umbrella they got while my brother-in-law was working for Busch Gardens). Fitting, I know--commenting on the commercial aspects of the beach while at the same time inadvertently advertising for a beer company.

The first day on the beach it was very busy, even on a red flag day. Thousands of people played in the first 20 feet of water. Thousands more either basked in the sun or hid, like myself, under an umbrella to get away from it. Everyone was in their own little world on the beach. The second day was not much different, though the crowds on the beach were much smaller than the previous day. There was still the usual array of beach freaks and all. Everyone again was in their own little world. I again was huddled as best I could under my Bud umbrella digging in the sand with my daughter.

Things quickly changed as the people around us began to notice some dolphins playing in the waves a hundred yards or so from the shore. I would guess that there were two groups of them. They were jumping, frolicking, and doing what dolphins do. A couple of times, we could see them surfing underneath the water in the waves as they came in. It was quite a remarkable sight.

As we stood and watched, I happened to notice that most everyone on the beach was watching the dolphins. Some were pointing and chatting with one another. Others, like my wife, were desperately trying to catch the playful beasts with cameras. The guy on his wake board who was in the water in front of us had stopped and was staring out into the water with his board tucked under his arm. There was almost a silence amidst the crashing waves.

Here we were, in the center of all that commercialism, enjoying and relaxing for ourselves on a beach that had been overtaken by places and stuff. God's beach was really not his own, for the beauty of the place was covered and veiled with all that was around it. And yet, less than 100 yards out from everything, a different part of God's creation once again caught the attention of the created. Everyone on that beach recognized the wonder that we were seeing and took a moment to pause. Some only paused for moments and returned to what they were doing. Others, like Steph and I, strained and watched, hoping that the dolphins would continue to play and do what God created them to do in our presence.

August 18, 2005

Wide Awake

It's 4:00am. I'm wide awake and already in the office.--I've been here for a half an hour already. I slept some. Steph woke me up when she came to bed at 2am. I couldn't fall back to sleep after that. It's not the first restless night I've had this week. There have been many.

It all began Monday night. Actually, it started way before that, but the restless nights began Monday night. On Monday night, the elders of the church I serve were very critical of me for things that have happened and not happened in the last few months. Some of their critiques were fair and warranted. Some were off base. I will be the first to admit that not is all as it should be in the ministries I oversee here. Some of it is my fault, some of it is not. Though, I don't think they totally see what I see. I tried to explain so they might understand, but I believe I came off whiny and confused.

There are so many more layers of this situation that I could go into, but this is not the right place to do so. I can say that I have struggled with feelings of worthlessness and being unloved very hard since Monday. The night before last I was almost completely numb to my ministry, God, and everything else around me. Thoughts of bailing out of ministry were constantly running through my mind, along with the conversations that happened during the elders meeting. I was playing them over and over trying to understand where the criticism was coming from--trying to figure out how I could fix it. I've cried more in the last couple of days because of all of this than I can remember. When people close to me have tried to give me encouragement, I have struggled to hold back the tears. I was on the verge.

Luckily, yesterday was much different. I began to realize that I still have worth. I know that God finds worth in my ministry. I believe there is still much to do here at South. I believe I can accomplish what the elders have set before me, even though I don't believe it is totally fair. So I sit here wide awake, ready to watch the sunrise and live a new day with new hope. Wide awake for the life and work that is still left to do.

Dean Trune, a member here at South and the leader of Impact Ministries International, continually talks about God waking him up in the middle of the night. He'll wake up on a regular basis in these pre-dawn hours and find himself sitting with God's Word and his journal, listening, seeking, and wanting. God has given him some amazing things in those times. I believe God wouldn't let me sleep tonight so I would get these thoughts out of my head and continue the realizations that began yesterday.

I'm here Lord, wide awake and ready to go.

July 16, 2005

The Change

This evening our elders spent time praying with Towle. He is a man who is late in life. He just found out about a month ago that he had cancer. Two weeks ago his doctor told him that he would die soon. The doctor told him that if there was something in his life that he wanted to and had not done it, he should get to it because time was very short.

Towle came in for prayer and to confess. Times like this with the elders are so hard for me. There was much joy as we prayed because Towle has lived a good life. Yet, at the same time there was much pain because of the quickness of his coming death and the fact that his family is very dear to us at South. These were not the most amazing things, though.

The most amazing thing was how Towle sat at the end of our ridiculously long conference table and shared the struggles of his life--how he continually dealt with lust, how he wished he would have loved his kids even more than he did. He was the quintessential tough old man who would never cry who had been turned into a heap of humility and tears.

It is amazing to me how God could take such heartache in the ugliest of situations like quick death from cancer and make such joy come from it. I fear that the church has underestimated how huge our God is and how ignorant we are to think that we can fully figure him out.

My prayer tonight is that Towle and his family have peace, joy, and comfort throughout the next few weeks and months. I also pray that I have much humility and wonder when I approach my God who holds the world in his hands and measures the mountains with his fingers. (Isaiah 40)

July 11, 2005

A Gentle Wind

It's been awhile since I sat at my computer and typed in my journal. I have gotten used to writing in my journal instead of typing, because I like the portability of it. But, I'm by my computer and so I'm going to type.

There have been many ideas going through my head this past week. So much going on with my ministry, so many things I'm seeing in the world, Your presence that I'm noticing from day to day. But, I haven't taken the time to sit and write it out. Hopefully that will change as I create space for you.

One thing is what a call a Gentle breeze. Ever since my time at Elkhorn Valley Christian Service Camp with Jack Everetts, I have at times noticed the gentle breeze. It was one night when we were at the pool for a baptism. As we were all there around the pool, a gentle wind started blowing. Jack made the comment of noticing it and mentioned a verse of scripture, which I cannot find right now. The idea was that as the wind blows, it is like the soft presence of God's spirit around us. And it's stuck in my head and with me ever since. That must have been almost 15 years ago.

I normally do not notice it, and when I do, it really catches my attention. The most prevalent of these times has been at camp the last couple of weeks. When we were at vespers on Saturday night praying and readying ourselves for camp, I felt the gentle breeze blowing over us. Not a strong breeze that moves your hair or the leaves. It was a soft breeze that you could feel on your face and barely tell it was there. Cool, refreshing, and inviting. I noticed it this Saturday as we stood on the banks of Rock Lake. It was there, blowing, seeming like it was keeping watch over us. I've begun to notice it a lot.

It's interesting how we go through life so busy and focused on other things. But, God is always present and around us, even when we don't realize or acknowledge it. Lord, thank you for helping me to take notice of your presence around me. Keep my eyes open and my ears listening to their fullest so I can take in the most of you I can.

July 8, 2005

Stained Fingers

The last few weeks have been long and painful. I have already done one week of summer youth camp and I'm quickly preparing for another that starts in a few days. A few weeks after that, I'll head to CIY with my students. It is always good to get away from regular life and spend time with my students. This, however, does not come without much pain. When I plan to be gone for a week, I have to work twice as hard before I leave so I can be gone and then twice as hard when I come back to catch up from being gone. I guess it is one of ther perks of ministry. Even with the best of intentions, it always seems like 90% of what I need to get done before I go ends up being completed in the last 2 or 3 days in the office. Needless to say, the days have been dragging along.

One of the things I hate most about when things are hectic is that I don't get the chance to (or better put--I don't make the time to) sit and watch what is going on around me. I think I've been to my favorite coffee shop once in the last 3 weeks. During these times, I find that my most reflective time is spent on the lawn mower, though it is hard not to concentrate on straight lines and patterns in the grass.

This afternoon as I cut the grass, I was mentally chewing on some struggles and frustrations that I'm having with my ministry. It was a good time to sit and think, though I would have liked to actually come to some conclusions. As I made the last few passes back and forth in the yard, agruing and pleading with God about my ministry, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye in the brush and weeds--black raspberries.

Now, some of you might not get excited at the sight of fresh, non-store fruit. I do, though not entirely because it is fresh, non-store fruit. When I was growing up, my mother and grandmother did a lot of canning and freezing. For those of you who have no clue of what in the heck I'm talking about, canning and freezing are ways of perserving the things one grows in a garden--yet another thing in my past that is becoming extinct in the present world. Liken it to the cans of soup and veggies you buy at the store, only a million times better.

My mom would always make homemade tomato sauce and tomato juice every year, along with canning green beans, yellow beans, pickles, pickled red beets, pickled peppers, grape juice, and sauerqraut. We would also freeze things like corn and strawberries. It was always a brutal time of the year because I was the ever present helper. It would be 90 degrees outside and I'd be stuck picking the veggies, helping her prepare them for canning, and then watching them boil for an hour so the lids would seal.

My grandmother would always outdo my mother. She, in addition to the above assortments, would also make jams, jelly, some canned meat, and an interesting concoction called minced meat, which was sort of like fruitcake without the cake.

The worst of all the things we prepared were raspberries. Not because it did not turn out good. The raspberry jam was always the best of everything Gram made. No, the reason it was the worst was because picking raspberries is not a fun thing. Raspberries grow on vines that are much like rose stems--laced with barbs and thorns. Adding to the mehem, most raspberries grow in the wild. Thus, take the barbs and thorns that are included on the vines and add to them the assortment of other malicious plants that have taken up residence nearby. AND, adding to the agony of cuts, jabs, and much pain, the raspberry juice would stain your fingers a nice deep purple bruise color.

After dinner and our worship rehearsal at church, I took the time to trounce once again into the briars and thicket. I ended up with a small bowl of very nice black raspberries and slightly stained fingers. All the while, my mind was flashing back to long days of berry picking with my mom and my grandmother. Gram has been gone now for quite some time, but the memories of her and the joy that she shared with us are still there and vivid.

And now, as I sit here and type, I realize that through memories and fruit, God has helped me to be a little more patient with my frustrations. Picking raspberries is really not that fun in itself, but the time spent with family and the jam that results from the efforts are beyond priceless. Am I taking time to enjoy the family? Am I making jam? Or, am I focused on how bad the briars are at the moment?

July 1, 2005

My Little Sunshine

This is my little sunshine. She's almost 18 months old now, and talking up a storm. She even loves to talk on the phone with anyone who will listen. Go figure. She's not supposed to touch the remot control she is holding. . . what are you going to do?

June 3, 2005

Hello? Hello? Is This Thing On?

Wow. It's probably a good thing that few people, if any, come here. This place is musty and moldy at the moment--like month old bread. Oh wait, it's actually been two months since I blogged. That makes me think of a science experiment one of my friends did in college. He bought cucumbers and put them in the bottom of his fridge at the beginning of the year. They turned out black, red, and oozing by May. Yummy.

Life has, as it always seems (or so I like to think so), been moving at crazy speeds. I've done a lot in the last two months--second draft of my thesis, trip to Tennessee for the thesis defense, another trip for graduation, prep for big events like Mother's Day and Memorial day at church. Add to that a puking 16 month old (and a week later an ill wife/momma) and you have the ingredients for a long few months. It's all over now. Which means there are a new set of items that need done with little time to do, like the 1 Peter small group lessons that I'm supposed to be working on. . .

It's not that I don't have things rolling around in my head that I want to write about, I just lack time. We'll see how things go over the next few days. Maybe there will be some magical "space" that appears in my life where I can do more than catch my breath.

March 22, 2005


At the moment, I'm held up in front of the computer at 1am. It's late. I'm trying to do work on the second draft of my thesis. It is hard to focus. . .

While I was sitting here, I logged onto Trillian (the lovely program that allows you to use multiple chat programs without having all separate programs running at one time). Now, instead of reading, ripping, and re-writing, I'm conversing with a couple of my college students. I miss talking online to people that I don't get to regularly see and visit.

But that is not why I'm writing. I'm writing to talk about sitting in chairs, specifically the one I'm in right now. My wife sometimes sits with her legs tucked up underneath her. It is a sitting position that I've seen many women use. My one year old daughter is beginning to sit this way, though no one has taught her. I've always wondered why they sit that way. I know that if I were to sit on one of my legs for any length of time, it would die from the weight, let alone being able to get both of my legs up under my large-ness. For my wife to get into such sitting positions, she sometimes steps up into the desired chair and then sits down on the stepping leg. Other times she drags her knee across the chair and then sits down

Now, this normally is not a problem. Sometimes its a little odd to see her standing on the furniture for a moment or two, but that is all. However, the other night she tried to sit on her legs in the chair in front of the computer. This would not really have been a problem if it were a basic four legged chair. Unfortunately for her, it was not. It is an office chair that rolls and swivels. I wasn't watching, so I don't know whether it was the climb and sit or the drag and sit move. What I do know is that she lost her balance and fell. In the process, the chair went with her. She nearly fell on our daughter who was close by her side as always. The only thing that got hurt was the chair.

Now, as I sit here and try to focus and write, I lean to the left. It's not a huge lean to the left, only enough to really be aggravating. To compensate, I lean back to the right. It is like the dripping of a faucet or whatever else doesn't pull your attention away instantly, but slowly crawls under your skin. I won't last long here. . .

Life is that way sometimes, though. You always want things to work out perfectly and to be just right. Yet, when you get there and live it, there is always something askew. I know--not too profound. What do you expect for such a late time?

March 17, 2005

3:00am in the ER

A couple of weeks ago I was away with some of the students from my youth ministry at the Michigan Statewide Teen Convention in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It was a great time away with them, though it was not void of its own challenges.

By Friday evening at the convention, I had two or three students not feeling well. Some of that can be contributed to the convention hall we were in. When you put almost 600 students in one room and add a good worship band like One-5-Oh, you get a smelly room full of stagnant air at the end of the praise time. It's just one of those things that always happens. This year, the hot, stagnant air made a couple of our students a little woozy, though it was nothing too serious.

That evening after the main session, our group met in my intern's room to talk about the evening and to walk through the rest of the weekend. That's when Aaron told me he wasn't feeling well. No big thing in my mind--it was the effects of the hot, stinky room mixed with the fact that he ate something he shouldn't have at dinner and was paying for it. Unfortunately, that was not the case. By 1:00am, we called his parents to let them know what was going on and headed to the emergency room.

This was my first trip with a student to the ER, and for the most part, it went very smoothly. If you have ever been to the emergency room, you will know that checking in, being evaluated by nurses, and then put in a room and evaluated by the doctor is normally a long a painful process. We got checked in quickly and within a half an hour or so we were in a holding room. Aaron got medication fairly quickly and ended up sleeping through most of the rest of the night while the doctors tried to figure out what was going on with him. While he slept, I got to take in everything going on around me. The most notable was a drunk guy in one of the other stalls in the room. As I sat there, I could here him singing. I don't know what songs they were, they were barely intelligible, but you definitely could tell he was singing. After belting out a few bars, he was thirsty and wanted a drink of water. The nurses were busy with other patients in the room, so his request went unheard. This made him mad and belligerent. He left his curtained area and started yelling at the nurse. It didn't last long--she threatened security and told him he wasn't the only one in need of care in the room. He quickly quieted and went back to his bed and began singing again.

Eventually, the doctor came to see what was wrong with this man. He asked him how he got to the hospital. The man could not remember. He said someone had brought him there from Jackson (which wasn't logical since we were in Kalamazoo). The doctor asked him what was hurting and the guy said he had fallen on his arm a week earlier, but that it had healed and did not hurt anymore. Pulling at straws, the doctor asked if the man would like to get some help with his drinking problem, to which the man responded, "I don't have a drinking problem."

The whole experience made me appreciate the work that doctors and nurses do dealing with everyone who comes through the doors of the emergency room. Not only do they have to deal with the physical ailments that people come in with, they have to work through the emotional and personal things going on with some of the people they attend to, like the drunk singer. By listening to the conversation between the doctor and the man, and by talking with the nurse later after everything happened, I could tell that there was a want in them to help the man get some real help and not destroy his life as he was. It helped me to realize that there is only so much you can do for those who hurt and need help, but don't want it. That night my mind chewed on that a lot, thinking of instances in my ministry where similar conversations had happened where denials of problems were made and help was refused.

Fortunately, the doctors don't stop trying to help people. They have pledged their allegiance to a code. We as Christians have done something similar. We have pledged our lives to the God of Heaven and Earth. We are partnered with Him as He works to bring the whole of His creation back under His reign. We have put on Christ and live with an endless hope, an endless love, and endless compassion for all because God has shown us the same endless hope, love, and compassion. We need to evaluate and make sure we are living in this way.

If you are wondering about Aaron, he's fine. The doctors diagnosed him with appendicitis at 4:00am. I got the privilege of calling his parents then to tell them they needed to drive to Kalamazoo to authorize surgery for their son. Even more exciting was calling one of my elders to make sure someone else other than me knew what was going on.

March 12, 2005


It's Saturday morning. I find myself at my regular coffee shop sitting in my regular chair. Today's task is working through the first draft of my thesis. (My second draft is due in a few weeks) The music of Rich Mullins is helping me make it through the day. . .

The coffee shop that I come to has a bulletin board inside the door where people can post things. It is smattered with car sales, handyman ads, and everything else. A few moments ago, a paper was put up that says "Feast to Fight Hunger". I would guess that it is a fundraiser of some type to raise money to fight world hunger or something of that nature, which in itself is interesting. Let us have a "feast" to fight world hunger. Is the only way that we as Americans can raise money for something like world hunger to offer those who will be giving the money something to come for or a reward?

Unfortunately, the interesting thing was not necessarily the announcement that was hung. Rather, it was the size of the woman who hung it. She was the quintessential overweight person of a shorter stature. She waddled over to the board, looking somewhat in pain as she struggled to walk. She stole a pin from another announcement, put that announcement behind hers and then stuck her announcement to the board right in the center, covering up even more announcements, ads, and what have you.

Now, I do admit that the lady could have some medical condition that has led to her largeness. I continually blame my mom for making me always clean my plate when I was little for my size and love for eating. Yet, we as Americans continually make excuses for the actions we take and the way we live. The church is no more innocent.

At what point do we take responsibility for our actions rather than blaming other things like "the clean plate club?" At what point do we quit saying, "Satan is attacking this or that in my life" and live the lives that God desires us to live under his reign? (Matthew 13)

March 1, 2005

Winter Continues

Well. It's March 1st. I'm supposed to be at GLCC today helping Esther with a panel discussion about worship and worship ministry. However, last night the snow fell and then fell some more. We in Lansing awoke to six inches of blowing snow with the prospect of another two to four inches today and one to three inches this evening. It is not the way most of us would want March to start, but what are you going to do. We cannot change the weather, or can we?

This week at church Joy read scripture during our gathering time. She read the passage out of John 9 where Jesus heals a man who was blind from birth. Jesus heals him with some spit and dirt--not things that you would look to for healing power (though, with the market of odd things like Mother Mary grilled cheese, we could make lots of money with some holy spit and dirt on eBay). In the process of healing him, Jesus causes trouble with the Pharisees and their belief system, turning the tables on their "all knowing" pride and understanding of who God is and how his Kingdom is to be.

Now, the thing that struck me most this past Sunday was not the narrative that Joy read. Rather, it was the fact that Joy is physically blind. How many of the people made the connection? They should have seen another one of our ladies lead Joy to the pulpit, step back while she read, and then step forward again to lead Joy off the stage. Even if they made the connection, did any of them think that it was odd to have a blind person reading this story? Did it make them feel uncomfortable? I know that for me, anytime we sing songs about blind people being healed and Joy is on the worship team, I am uncomfortable. How can we sing such things or read such things without having a want or even possibly an expectation for Joy to be healed?

Interestingly, I have been thinking on the idea of healing and miracles for some time now. As I have been working through my thesis the last few months, I have been working through the idea that those of us who make up the church need to be focused on how we live out the kingdom of God as the Body of Christ present in the world today. In our gathering time, this means that we are unified in the ways we praise God for who he is rather than dividing into separate musical style groups. It also helps us understand that what we do in the gathering time is for God alone, not for us or non-Christians. It also means that our existence as the body of Christ outside of the gathering is also cross shaped. Thus, the way we live out our lives must embody Christ in every way. This means that we are Christ-like when we drive. We are Christ-like as we surf the internet. We are Christ-like as we talk on the phone to telemarketers, and so on and so forth.

Also, I believe that as we do this cross shaped living, the Holy Spirit works in us and around us to show that life in the Kingdom of God is different than life in the world. In turn, we are a people of "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Gal 5:22) I believe that this was the same thing that was happening as Jesus lived out his ministry.

Yet, as Jesus embodied the Kingdom of God in his living, there was something more happening. The poor were treated with respect and sinners were treated with love and acceptance. Things like blindness and leprosy did not have a place. Jesus had power to heal and to cast out demons. He had power to raise the dead. The men in Mark 2 knew this and they cut a hole in someone's roof to get a paralized man in front of Jesus to be healed. The woman with the bleeding problem knew this and just touched him and she was healed.

The issue for me then is if we are living out the Kingdom of God, why are those miracles not present? Does it mean that we are not living up to our kingdom potential and embodying the life of Christ as much as we could? Have we reasoned away our belief that God could move in these ways in the here and now, thus limiting the power of the Holy Spirit? Even more grave, is our living out of Christ so incomplete that the Spirit cannot or does not want to be present? Or, is God just choosing to not move in those ways?

We as Christians really need to think hard about how we are living. Are we living in ways that these miracles could even be possible? Are we embodying Christ and living out his love and compassion for the poor and the sinners? Are we living out the love for one another within the church? Are we living out the Kingdom of God or are we living out the world?

Can we change the weather like Jesus did as he and his disciples sailed across the Sea of Galilee in Matthew 8 and Mark 4? It's still snowing outside. Will Joy get the chance to read God's Word with her eyes rather than her fingers before Christ's return? I do not know whether God will choose to move in that way between now and then. I do know that we as the body of Christ, the presence of God's Kingdom here on earth right now, need to have more faith and live more like Christ in every part of our lives. (Matthew 16, Mark 8, Luke 9)

February 26, 2005

Sunny But Cold

Today is a beautiful day. It is sunny outside. The sun has been quite absent over the last few months around here. I normally don't notice things like that, but I did the other day. I normally don't get annoyed with the snow because I love the 4 seasons of Michigan. Yet, the other day when it was snowing again all I could think was, "when is spring coming?"

That seems to be a theme in my life right now, the idea of waiting. I'm on the edge of the spring and the new, but not yet. Some of you know that I was away from life for a few weeks this month. I went to the hills of East Tennessee to crank out the first draft of my thesis. It was a long, hellish two weeks being squirreled away from my family in a 6' by 6' space for 10 to 12 hours a day. I did make it through the writing process and my first draft was completed. That's about the most you can say about it. It was horrible writing in my opinion. Dr. Norris, my thesis adviser, confirmed that the other day with an email saying it was miserable and with his pen marks all over the paper copy he returned to me. So, while I'm closer to being done with my degree, I'm still not yet there, and there is a lot of work yet to do. Plus, I have so many books on the to read list like Lord of the Rings that I cannot get to right now because of the thesis work and focus.

It's the same way in my ministry. When I came to South Lansing Christian Church I knew that I would do a dual ministry in worship and youth for awhile. When I think back, two years sticks in my head as the estimated time frame. It has been four years now and there is no hope of a change anytime soon. Not that I don't enjoy my job. I love my job and the things that I get to do. It is just that I sometimes feel spread so thin in the areas that I lead that I cannot make good progress in either one.

My family life also has the same challenges. Steph and I have had the priviledge of living in the farmhouse on South's property since we moved here in 2001. It has been a blessing for us. Yet, we are at the point where we want a place that is our own. We have ideas and dreams of what we want in a house, how far we want to be away from the church, and such. But, with the comotion of the thesis the last few months, winter colds and the stomach flu in Januray, and keeping up with ministry, we have only had the time to dream.

So, as the day outside is beautiful and sunny, the cold of winter is still present. Snow covers the the dormant brown of earth and new life waits behind the curtain for another day. As Christians we are in the same place. Our Lord and Savior has come and gone. He has showed us the way, the truth, and the life. We eagerly wait for his return. Yet, as with my thesis, my ministry, and the desire for a house of our own, we must move forward with life now while we wait. We must live out the way, the truth, and the life with our faith and actions in this world as we wait for Christ's return. (John 14:1-21)

February 5, 2005

An Outdoor Interruption

I have been away from my family now for 10 days. It has been a long ten days where my focus has been on finishing my thesis. That has gone ok, though I unfortunately am no where close to being done with it. It just takes too long to get into my data and get my brain out of "not thesis writing" mode.

I have been in the library or reading and working on this thesis pretty much nonstop. At best, I have had some mental breaks in the evenings when I go to my friend divides house, where I am staying. Today the library was only open from 9am to 4pm. This really sucks in my case because I get the best work done when I'm in the library. So, at 4pm I got kicked out. I've been working at such a crazy pace that I decided to take a break and go for a drive.

I enjoy driving through the hills of Tennessee. It is always a joy to drive and look at all the different styles of houses and see the countryside. Sometimes it is a bit scary when you drive into a "deliverance" type area. There were none of those experiences today, thank goodness. So I drove, with the window down, since it was warm.

On my journey I ended up at Watagua Lake. It is a big inland lake stuck between a couple of mountains. It is very beautiful and very peaceful, except for a bit of road noise. So, along the way I pulled off the road and sat by the side of the lake. It was heavenly . . .

As I sat there and stared across the lake wondering about life, my thesis, and being away from my wife and daughter, I began to hear a rumbling in the distance. I looked to the left and saw a houseboat. I thought, that would be fun and cool. Out on the water for a couple of days at a time, just floating and taking in everything. I think that would be grand. Because of those thoughts I was not to distracted by the rumbling of the motor, which was loud for a boat.

After awhile they stopped. I could hear a couple of voices in the distance, but it was not bad at all. Then the music started. Picture the most peaceful waterfront you can picture with a tranquil hush coming from all over. Then jar that image and calm with some good old country music! And to add to the heinousness of their "crime", I could hearing one of the guys singing loudly in a drunken tone.

Needless to say, I quickly left my peacefulness and headed to the car. So much for spending some quiet time with nature. . . $%@! rednecks!

January 29, 2005

Windows And 2nd Grade

Being far away from home is a difficult thing. It's hard for me to stay focused sometimes because of the amount of distractions around me. I left home a couple of days ago to come to Tennessee so I could work on my thesis. It is a good thing that I am not at home or in the office at church. There it is too easy to go home and play with my daughter. It is too easy to get side tracked by other things in the office like my guitar or some sort of ministry work. Plus, the phone is there.

Away from home there are other distractions. When you return back to a place that you have lived before, you want to go around and see how everything has changed. You also want to return to the places that you loved while you were there. It was hard for me not to drive into the mountains yesterday and walk back the Appalachian Trail to Laurel Falls. If I would have had a little more daylight and no thesis to write, I would have been there, walking beside the river taking in the beauty of God's creation.

I think the most challenging thing for me is just staying focused because I'm away from everyone who would help to keep me focused. It's too easy to think that I need to go get some food and take a break or that I need to check on the weather on the tv for a moment. My biggest distraction yesterday were two squirrels outside of the window in my thesis carrel. They were small gray squirrels feasting on the berries in the tree. They were energetic and interesting, and only 3 feet away from me. (I must have been hidden by a glare on the window).

Now, why in the world did I get a thesis carrel with a window. Don't they know that I sometimes struggle with daydreaming? It all started in 2nd grade. I was in Mrs. Barcus's class. She was a rather large, yet short woman with a mole the size of a quarter on her cheek. She was the quintesential 2nd grade teacher. I have a few memories from that year of school. I remember Mrs. Barcus teaching us "Zippity Do Da" that we used to sing to a 45rpm record. I also remember her getting out her accordian and playing it for us. I also remember an African American girl who was in our class who always talked. Always! She got paddled a couple of times for it.

It was in that classroom that my problem with daydreaming started. They questioned it a little in 1st grade. I used to write multiple words down as I copied things off the board. An example would be, "See see spot run." They thought it was my sight and had me get my eyes checked. There were no problems. Then, in 2nd grade, one of the 9 weeks grading periods came to a close. Mrs. Barcus was concerned that I had not really turned in any of the papers that she had given us to do. When she checked my desk, she found them all nicely and neatly stacked in my desk, partially completed. You see, when she would hand things out, I would do part of them, but then get stuck looking out the window daydreaming. The sad thing is that there was nothing really mesmerizing outside of the window--just a couple roofs of the nearby houses. The following weeks were not good weeks for me. I would go home, work on the undone papers, eat dinner, work on the undone papers, and then go to bed. I probably also got spanked at home, though I don't really remember that far back.

I guess what I need today is Mrs. Barcus keeping me focused to do my work, along with my mom. I won't be in the thesis carrel today; the library is closed. There will be no looking out the window at the hotel either, because the curtain is closed. The tv is there. That is a slight problem. The bigger problem is just me getting focused and doing work.

January 27, 2005

Stuck At the Airport

Being stuck in an airport is an interesting thing. There are so many different people all around. Everyone is heading from one place to another with one purpose or another helping them to get from point A to point B. They come in all different shapes and sizes, colors, and however else one would use to describe how we are different from each other. Best of all you see mullets. I’ve seen two mullets so far. One was of the garden variety—just a little long in the back, to show off his connection to the 20s. Another one was a great long hockey mullet. Those are the best in my opinion—fans showing their true pride for a sport that at the moment doesn’t support its fans. Rather, owner and player are bickering about who should make the most money. Now, I might be showing my lack of money—I would assume that once one has achieved a certain amount of money, then getting more wouldn’t be a necessity. I guess I’m just a poor man trying to think in the ways of a rich man.

Back to being stuck—I've been here since 3pm. I entered the airport labyrinth at 11:45am this morning by having my bag and suitcase completely unpacked and searched. From there I went to the metal detector and was promptly pulled aside for more investigation. They clothed my shoes to make sure I wasn’t laced with a bomb and then finished it all off with a pat down. From there I went upstairs to be gouged by the snack bar. I paid $2 for a Styrofoam cup of ice with a little Coke poured over it. How to people not feel guilty working in those places?
Just wait, it gets better. After setting down to wait on my boarding call, I soon heard a sweet lady come over the loud speaker offering up the information that my flight had been delayed. It seems that security at the airport in Cincinnati allowed a security breach. That held up the plane that I was waiting on to fly to Cincinnati. Needless to say, I missed my connection in Cincinnati. So, now I'm stuck here in a plastic chair, slurping on a more moderate priced Coke, watching the people going to and fro, and listening to some Ricky Skaggs bluegrass music. (One must listen to bluegrass when they are in Kentucky. I know, I know, Cincinnati Airport in Kentucky is not logical. I didn't put it here!) Only an hour and a half more to wait. Yippee.

January 18, 2005

A Year Ago Today

It is hard to believe that one year ago at this very moment I was sitting in a hospital room with my wife. She had just had her epidural put in after enduring almost 14 hours of labor pains. We had been up almost the whole night waiting to see if they were going to let us stay in the hospital or if they were going to send us home. I was emotionally and physically drained. We were tired of waiting. Steph was a week overdue as it was. We just wanted the baby to come into the world and for us to get on with the rest of our lives. We did not know that it would be another 7 hours of labor and waiting until Hannah Grace was born.

Our first year of parenthood has for the most part been great. God showed us grace and gave us an almost perfect baby. She was sleeping through the night by 3 months. She hasn’t had any eating problems like spitting up or allergies. She is a happy baby most of the time. The only challenge has been teething—she now has 12 to 14 teeth. The only real problem has been ear infections, which the doctors have been able to handle, for the most part.

However, the last month has been a month of sickness in our house. I had a sinus infection with a fever for awhile. Then my wife had it worse than I did. About a week later, Hannah came down with the sniffles again. We figured it was teething (remember, 12 teeth). Last week, Hannah woke up in the middle of the night, something she has been doing regularly for about a month. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a normal night. She had the stomach flu. The next 3 days were long and draining for her and for us. A trip to the doctor also revealed that the ear infections had returned. To add to the mix, Steph began feeling sick on Friday. She was down for a couple of days. I got it Saturday night/Sunday, though I was lucky enough to not vomit. Hopefully, we are finally on the mend.

Needless to say, it has been a long new year so far for my family. It has been even longer for me. I again find myself mentally and emotionally drained by all the sickness and the added stress of trying to finish out my Masters of Divinity degree—something that has been in the process now for 7 or 8 years. I feel like I’m sitting in the hospital room again, waiting for things to come that have seemed so long in coming, and in reality, are still farther out with more life and waiting to go before they actually pass. I just want it to be over and move on with life.

The blessing of that long day a year ago is that at around 4:30pm in the afternoon, my daughter came into the world. At that moment, when the doctors and nurses gave her to me to hold for the first time, the previous few days and moments were gone. The waiting, pain, and emotional drain were gone. The waiting was over. There was a new joy, a new reason for living. It is that hope and joy that keep me going today. When I go home today, my birthday girl will be there smiling, clapping, and waiting to sing "Heads, shoulders, knees, and toes". Even greater, I know that our God is with me and carrying me forward today, tomorrow, and the next day when I cannot go it alone. He is our hope, strength, and joy! My prayer is that you and I both will be able to cling to Him with all we have during the bad days . . . and the good. (Psalm 30)

January 5, 2005

Peeping Toms

It's been awhile since I actually sat down a blogged my thoughts. Normally, those of you who actually take time to look at this thing get the articles that I have to write for our church newsletter. That's really been the closest thing to reflection that I've had over the last few months. My mind has been focused on other things like my masters thesis--which is presently spread around here on the desk as I type. Tonight is not much different. I don't really have that much to say.

Yet, as I struggle to write on a consistent basis, the flip side of the blogging world is a draw to me. One of the things that I regularly do every day is visit blogs of others to read what is rolling around in their heads and going on in their lives. I feel somewhat guilty because most of them are distant friends at best now. They were close to me at one point or another, but now because of whatever reason, the regularity of friendship is no longer there. To them I am probably just a memory in the past of their lives. Yet, for me, as I read their thoughts, feelings, and whatever else they place in their blogs, I cannot help but feel the excitement of friendship that used to be stirring once again within me.

Now, one would think that if there were a past friendship, things might be done to rekindle the friendship and renew the conversation of life that once used to be. That is something that I long to do. However, for some reason there is a fear within me about doing just that. I wish I were able to fully understand why that is. I think part of it is that at some point in the past, those friendships stopped being friendships for one reason or another. I am afraid that those reasons are still present and that those I would be trying to befriend again would just be annoyed. Maybe its that I know that the closeness of some of those friendships will never be regained, and so I'm not willing to even try to regain anything. Maybe I'm just crazy, and those lives that I peer into on a regular basis would appreciate having friendship return.

I just don't know and I cannot really explain it. I guess I'll continue on as the "peeping tom" that I am and wait for a moment of courage on my part to at least try.