December 30, 2006

Books I've Read in 2006

This is a paltry list in my mind. I know I could have read more. I read some great stuff, though.

The Chronicles of Narnia
Blue Like Jazz
A Generous Orthodoxy
Blessed Are the Peacemakers
It's Not Easy Being Green
Velvet Elvis
Good to Great
Red Moon Rising
The DaVinci Code
Good To Great and the Social Sectors
The Search to Belong
Grasping God's Word
If God Is Love
Starving Jesus
Tuesdays With Morrie
Five People You Meet In Heaven
How To Read the Bible for All Its Worth
For One More Day

I'll be posting a "to be read" list for 2007. Maybe that will help me stay more focused.

December 14, 2006


This is going to be a busy day. I have 3 appointments today, plus a whole bunch of things to get done before next week. With tomorrow being "momma's day off", I was up early and heading to the office by 6:00am.

As I took some Christmas cards to the mailbox before walking to the office, I noticed the stars and the moon shining brightly. It has been extra cloudy and rainy the last few days, so I was excited that it would be a sunny day. I was excited because sunshine always makes Stephanie smile and because I remembered it is going to be almost 50 degrees today. I might get the chance to take Hannah outside and play on the swing. She loves to swing. I was probably most excited about the chance to watch the sunrise.

I love watching the sunrise. There is something about being up before dawn and being privileged to watch a new day awake with oranges and reds across the sky. The newness and the hope of what is yet to come that is captured in those colors awakens me and makes me eager to take on the day, even when the day is packed with appointments and work like today.

In a sense, I think the place that I am in is like the cresting of the dawn, slowly peeking over the horizon with veiled colors ever so slightly. It is the new possibilities and future of the ministry here at South. It is the fact that my Wednesdays will return back to normal as the class I was teaching at GLCC ends. It is knowing that there will be new joy, love, and laughter found in the eyes and actions of a moody three year old and her momma today, tomorrow, and the next. It is the gift of grace and love that I continually receive from the creator of the dawn and that I get to share with others. The dawn is beginning to grow onto the darkness, covering it with marvelous light. I'm in the midst of it, surrounded by it on all sides. I watch it with wonder as the colors brighten and the high, simple clouds begin to glow. It is brilliant!

Bart Mallard)

My heart is steadfast, O God
And I will sing
With all my heart and soul
Music for the King
And I will awake the dawn
With my praise to You, O Lord

How great is Your love
So much higher than the heavens
With faithfulness that reaches the sky
How great is Your love
So much higher than the heavens
With faithfulness that reaches the sky
How great is Your love

Praise the Lord, O my soul
And glory to the King
Forever You are robed with majesty
We come to You, O Lord
Lay our praise at Your feet

Be exalted, O God, and let Your glory reign
Be exalted, O God, and let Your glory reign
Let it reign, let it reign, let it reign
Let it reign, let it reign, let it reign

December 12, 2006

Power Struggle

So, here I sit in my new "regular" spot at Beaners. I still don't like the fact that I'm hanging at Beaners. I would much rather be patronizing a "mom and pop" type coffee shop. But, none of those close felt like home or offered a place where I could feel focused. So, I gave in and tried Beaners--good coffee, though not Il Bacio Highlander Grogg, and a great table away from the main area with a close power cord and good light. I've found a new home. . .

It has been too long since I've sat and emptied my head to this thing called blogger. That's not to say that much has not been happening. Much has. Between ministry, the holidays, teaching, and worship ministry during the holidays, keeping up with everything has been a challenge. I've been learning, observing, and grasping at everything I can lately. The two biggest dents in my reality, however, don't come from any of the above. Rather, they come from my soon to be 3 year old toddler who is in constant flux in every way shape and form.

Over the last three or four months, Hannah has grown in every way possible. Physically, she is like a weed. She's grown a couple of inches taller, causing clothes not to fit anymore. She's outgrown her high chair and the car seat. Most of all, she's outgrown some of the things we used to do at playtime. Before, she would stand on my stomach and I would pick her up and make her fly. Now, when I pick her up, her feet are still on my stomach carrying most of her weight.

While growing out of things, she's also grown into things like cute hand me down sweatshirts from some people at our church. She's also grown into big girl underwear and all of their responsibility.

Her physical growth is only the half of it. For the last year, she has been practicing and trying to jump on one foot like Elmo and Mr. Noodle do. In the last month, she has finally learned how to do this on her own. Her coordination and abilities are sometimes mind boggling to me. How can a little baby as she once was learn so much in 3 years? Once she couldn't do anything but lay in one place and flail her arms. Now she does frontward rolls for fun and dances around with unending energy like Tigger.

She's learning the power of words and communication, both verbal and non-verbal. When she's left out of the conversation, she'll quickly state, "Hey, you stole my conservation!" She makes up songs, has imaginary friends in each hand, and continually lives in distant lands of Charlie Brown, Cinderella, and Handy Manny. She knows how to pout and make my heart melt and want to give her the world. She even understands the power of laughter. The other day I was yelling at her for something and she came up to me, looked at me out of the corner of her eyes and smiled and giggled, chanting something about me needing to laugh or her being funny, all the while trying to get me to forget about her immediate wrong doing--just like I used to do to my mom in my teen years.

Yet, with learning and growth comes much frustration. Frustration from things like having to stop what she is doing to sit on the potty. Frustrations at me for not folding the toilet paper to just right or for using a towel instead of a Kleenex to wipe her face after brushing her teeth. How in such learning do we become such creatures of habit?

The other night I carried her in to bed and plopped her down to tuck her in. Immediately, she burst into tears and screaming because I didn't do it right. With tears rolling down her cheeks, she promptly crawled out of bed and crawled back in. Even more, every night now since then as I take her in for bed, she points out to me that the proper way to get into bed is by her crawling in from the foot end, not going over the safety rail.

All too often, I find myself struggling with her, trying to teach her that life will not let her keep such rigid ideals and routines, that the toilet paper won't be just right sometimes, and that that is ok. Her frustration makes me so frustrated and even more determined to "break" her independence so she understands that I can be trusted and that I am in control, not her. In turn, our struggle sometimes frustrates momma, which then frustrates me even more.

In one of those all to often moments in the last week or two, as I struggled to be the "ruler" of my domain, my mind began to wonder if God ever felt what I was feeling at that moment. How often do I bicker, fight, and yell at God or those around me because things are not the way I think they should be. . . not the way I want them to be? How often am I standing there screaming and crying because I didn't get to crawl into bed the right way or because something I loved to do, like fly my daughter in the air wasn't going to happen anymore.

As I've reflected on this the last couple of days, another moment with my daughter kept coming to me. Steph and I love Hannah's feet. They are perfect with their jellybean toes. During our nightly routine of changing into pajamas, we would kid her and tell her she had "stinky toes" and "fuzzy toe jam". She would sit there and pick at her toes. (I know, she'll probably have to go to therapy at some point for her childhood because of Steph and me) Towards the end of summer, Hannah began asking to get her feet washed every once in awhile to get rid of the stink. I'm sure most people would think nothing of it as they did what they could to make a child happy before putting her to bed. However, as I stood there at the sink holding her so she wouldn't fall off the counter with one hand and washing her feet with the other, the image of Jesus washing his disciples' feet and the words he shared with that night were constantly in my mind.

Here I am, the father that wants to fully equip my daughter to the fullest and prepare her for how unfair the world is, fighting with her along the way because I can-because I am the "ruler". Yet, I am the servant with the responsibility/privilege to wash her feet, to care for her when she falls down and gets hurt, to snuggle with her on the couch before bedtime and read stories. . . to sing "you are my joy" to her.

And, so as she grows, I grow. May the Lord continue to give us the ability to see and hear that we might catch what is going on around us, something more than what is plainly there, so that we become more like him in our love, understanding, and joy for ourselves and those around us.

December 8, 2006

Christmas 2006

Here we are in all our holiday cheer!

December 1, 2006


I never planned on disappearing. It just happened. I could complain about being too busy and not having enough time. That would be partially true. The real reason for the hiatus is that my brain is scattered right now. It has been for awhile. Too many thoughts running around, all wanting out, but none really finding the exit door. Maybe that will change over the next few days and weeks. We'll see. I know my body and my mind need a sabbath.

Interestingly, while on this mental pause, I have come across the music of sigur rós. They are a band that my guitar repair guy tours with every once in a while. He's even built a few guitars for them. Their music seems to capture where my brain is right now--reflective, with solitude and mystery, yet filled with energy and angst. You should take a moment and listen to how I feel inside.

October 26, 2006

Fortune Cookie Wisdom

I've always though fortune cookies were a little out there. This one takes the "most out there" prize. There should be a place where one can email, write, or even return the fortune cookie for something better.

October 24, 2006

The Servant of Economics

I've been reading through a book called If God Is Love by James Mulholland and Philip Gulley. While I don't agree with their universalist theology, I believe they say some things that the church really needs to listen to and chew on. One is the following:

Unfortunately, when religion becomes the servant of economics, religious institutions become brotherls, soliciting customers with powder and blush, selling our wares to the highest bidder. When churches are funded by Bingo nights or lure poeple with coffee and gift shops, they appeal to selishness and self-indulgence. When we Christians donate a pittance to God and lavish the remainder on ourselves, we become spiritual embezzlers. Rather than redeeming wealth, we are corrupted by it.

These are strong words that I believe can be expanded even farther out into other areas like worship/music. We as the church really need to stop and think about what we are and what we are trying to be, and more importantly, what God is calling us to be.

October 23, 2006

Cold, Bats, and Expectation

It is cold in our house today. Actually, it has been cold in our house for about 2 or 3 days now. Our furnace, which is older than me, decided to only run when I light the pilot for it. Luckily it is not too cold outside. Unlucky for me, it takes constant babysitting to get it to run for a full cycle. I'm glad I'm not afraid of the basement.

In trying to close off some of the cold from the outside, I removed the air conditioner from our bedroom window on Thursday. In the process, I found a bat snuggled into the space between our window sill and air conditioner. All through the summer, Steph would hear something in the air conditioner every once in awhile at night. Now we know it wasn't in the air conditioner, but under it. Needless to say, she was a little creeped out when I showed her the bat. Luckily it was cold inside and out that day because the bat didn't want to fly. He just sat on the sill and hissed with his big scary teeth. I flipped him out the window with one of the boards we put under the air conditioner. It took him awhile to fly off--long enough that I could get some pictures (click on the pic to get the full effect of the teeth!).

I've been expecting the furnace to die. It's been getting worse year after year. Though, I didn't think I would have to light it every time I wanted heat. I had not planned on finding a bat in the window. I normally expect them in the basement or in the attic. But like everything else, the unexpected comes without invitation.

I must say that I haven't enjoyed the unexpected the last few months. Maybe that's because the unexpected haven't been pleasant surprises like finding 10 dollars in your pocket. Rather, the unexpecteds for me have been broken heaters, hiding bats, and the like, for some reason put in my path so I have to deal with them, even when I don't want to.

On days like today, it would be very easy to give up and throw in the proverbial towel. I am certain I could go home, crawl back into the cold bed in our cold house and sleep till tomorrow. It would make me feel good for a day, I guess. But, the unexpected would still be there for me to deal with when I got up.

So, I push forward, doing the best to deal with what has been placed before me, doing my best to control my attitude, and allowing God to make what has happened unexpectedly become in some way a blessing for Him.

Mark 9:14-29

October 11, 2006


Its a little past 2:00am right now. I should be in bed sleeping so I can get up tomorrow and finish my lecture. I actually did some work tonight before meandering in here. I don't feel too bad that its so late, though I'm going to hate myself in the morning.

So much time has passed since my post. Much has happened in those few short weeks. I've said goodbye to one of my co-workers who moved to a different Sr. ministry. Our church has had 3 funerals, 2 special services, and one bonfire. Thats in addition to the normal church stuff like Sunday AM services and Wednesday night programming, and Thursday night rehearsals. Oh, I guess I could throw in Monday night prayer meetings and a monthly elder's meeting.

I'm tired. I'm weary. I'm a bit anxious about the next 4 or 5 months as I help lead South in the absence of a Sr. minister. I'm excited about what is to come, about the possibilities that lie in front of us, though. I simply don't want to go through the time between now and then.

Why is it that we as humans always want something, but yet don't want to go through the work to get there. We want to lose weight, but we are too lazy to really work at it. We know we should eat better, but we lack the disipline to do so. We really should save our money to buy that shiny new laptop, but we "need" it too badly. We need to address these things with so and so, and the hope is that when all is said and done, life won't fall apart. Even greater, we need to ask forgivness from so and so, but we are too prideful and ashamed. So we sit there and act like nothing has happened. We are driven by greed, pride, lust, laziness, and a whole bunch of selfishness. When will it ever stop?

I wish I could say that the church has made itself immune to these things. I wish, but I can't. What really draws the line between church people and the world? I believe its the willingness to get up on Sunday and go to church. Does that really mark church people differently? I don't believe it does. The church is still filled with messed up people who are too sick to want to change and get "healthy" and the church is too neutered to challenge them to get well or help them get well for that matter. Some may think that because they darken the door they are ok. Others might go because they feel guilty about the previous 6 days of life and they feel obligated to go be "spiritual".

Are we ready for a change? What would that change look like? Can we overcome the previous neutering and live with moxie again? Can we actually step away from the mirror and know who we are? Can we live the kingdom lives God has called us too without grumbling and moaning about what I want or need?

I guess I am at a point where I'm ready to live driven by hope and love. I want those things to shape and grow my faith, even when having faith and sticking my neck out is a dangerous thing. I want to put God in a place where he has to move. I don't want to be held back by what we've already done and by fear. In my life right now, fear is the one thing that grips me the most, closely followed by insecurity. (At least those are things that will keep me humble!)

My question to you is this: Are you ready to stop talking and live? Are you ready to stop waiting for what is yet to come without any drive for the now? Let's get busy and live.

September 23, 2006

Not Your Normal Saturday

It's been a good, long day. This morning I got up and played a little more with my new Macbook. I'm still learning my way in a new operating system. From there I headed to Great Lakes Christian College for Alumni Fest. I got to see some old friends, listen to some good Christmas music by the Alum Madrigal Singers, and hear a great message from Sam Wrisley. Sam talked about being a church that was focused on touching the untouchables rather than being a church that touches the comfortables. Very challenging thoughts to chew and act on.

After the morning worship time, I headed back home to spend the afternoon with my girls and play with my new computer a little more. I took a little road trip in the middle of the afternoon--I needed a 000x sized screw driver to install some new ram into my Macbook. I needed a simple, tiny screwdriver. I ended up spending $10 on a screwdriver pack because that was the only thing that anyone had. Why is life always that way?

This evening I had the priviledge of leading worship for our Solemn Assembly. A solemn assembly comes from Isaiah 1 and Joel 2. It was a time in the life of Israel where the people would fast and reset their lives to what God wanted. Our solemn assembly focused on the confession of sin and prayer for our church. It was a moving time in my opinion. The only issue was there were only a few people there. Certainly not the amount of people a church of our size should have. There are too many issues that bubble up out of this to discuss here, nor is this the place to really chew on pointed items.

What I do ask for, as I did in my last post, is multitudes of prayer. Pray that God will move around us at South. Pray that we will be the people that God wants us to be and that we will stay faithful to Him in every inch of our lives.

September 13, 2006

Cornerstone Coffee

In my quest to find a new coffeeshop home, I headed back to the Dragonfly this morning for a second visit. However, they weren't open at 7:00am. How is a coffeeshop not open at 7:00am? So, I headed to Cornerstone for a second visit there. I had a brewed coffee and a strudel (I had the strudel because I felt bad debit carding $1.50 for a coffee). Coffee is good. Strudel was very good. The atmosphere is still lame, but I might just have to get over that.

Life is busy now. I'm in week three of teaching at GLCC. It is a lot of fun, but more work than I anticipated. I'm not teaching difficult stuff. Yet, I still put in 4 or 5 hours of study and prep for each lecture. At South, Ron's time is winding down. The fall kickoff went very well. Tonight is the kickoff of our Building U Wednesday night program. This weekend is the prayer seminar with Dean Trune. There is also the clothing drive for Masters Provisions this weekend. I started teaching a young adult Sunday school class this week and I will begin teaching our 101 class for Building U next week. Balancing all that with planning worship week to week, rehearsals, search committee meetings, prayer meetings, and everything else is a little challenging.

So, with all that in mind, I come to you with a prayer request. Pray that God keeps me sane, focused, and movitvated. Pray that I will make space for my family, who is the real victim in all the fall programming that I'm involved in. Pray that I have stamina and energy, and most of all, a passion to show God and His Kingdom in all that I am doing.

Also pray that the new coffeeshop opening west of me, Elven Bay Coffee, might be my new sanctuary. Peace to you!

September 6, 2006

The Dragonfly

Well. It has been some time since I last made a post here on this site. It's not that I don't have anything to write. I have tons of stuff in my head. Tons of observations and reflections that are bouncing around in my head. I simply have not had time to sit down and dump out my head. I'm going to attempt to do that today.

Over the last week, my family and I did some traveling. Last Wednesday we drove to Ohio to see family and friends. It was a great time at home. Hannah got good grandparents time and slept in a big bed. That was a first for her. We were a bit concerned about her falling out of bed, because she flops around like a dead fish when she sleeps. She did ok the first night. The second night she fell out of bed at 3:30am. It's not a good thing to be woken by a screaming baby and a frantic wife.

On Friday we got to hook up with my best friend from my high school years. We had lunch with his family and my brother. Then, that evening, we had dinner with my family and waited for my sister and her family to drive into town. That evening was probably my favorite of the trip. My dad was his normal ornery self, tormenting grandkids and giving my mom a hard time. That week he had been trying to catch a groundhog. He had a trap from my uncle that he had baited with corn. About every 1/2 hour he would go out and check it to see if he caught it. At one point he thought he caught it. He came in exclaiming he had it, with a big "I've overtaken the world" type of smile. I went and checked the trap--there was nothing. We figure he got close enough when looking at the trap with his flashlight that he thought he saw something and didn't want to go any closer. He's afraid of animals like that.

The biggest highlight for me was playing Euchre. Euchre is always a loud and wild time at my family's house. When you add my brother, my dad, and me to the mix, it gets even crazier. We giggle and laugh and chide one another constantly. It's the activity with my family that really helps me realize and feel at home. I know, you may call that crazy. That's what it is for me.

My sister and her family finally arrived at 10:30pm. They had a long drive from Virginia through a tropical storm and the hills of West Virginia. It is always good to see them. We don't get to see them as often as we would like. But, that's the way things are.

Saturday we had breakfast with my family. My family knows how to eat. There were doughnuts, biscuits, sausage gravy, eggs, ham, sausage patties, and fresh fruit. No one goes hungry at a Lowman feast and there is always left over food. (I continually tell my mom that she and my family's eating habits are the main reason I've always been bigger than I should). After breakfast, I headed to Dan Johnson's Custom Guitar Works. He is currently repairing a Gibson 12 string I recently acquired and my Larrivee. He is the step brother of my brother-in-law. He's toured with numerous groups as their guitar tech. He's been repairing and building guitars for at least 15 years or more. He does great work. Plus, his shop is a guitar treasure chest. There are no less than 50 guitars in various states of repair there.

Saturday night Steph, Hannah and I drove to Detroit, Michigan. We needed some time to ourselves to relax and unwind from the last few months and to rest up for the next few. We found a hotel with a pool close to Macomb Christian Church and settled in for the night. The next morning we went to Macomb to worship with Eric and Mary. It was very nice to be a participant and not a leader. It was also good to reconnect with a couple people I hadn't seen in awhile. From there we had lunch with Eric and Mary and then headed to the Detroit Zoo. The zoo was great. It's much bigger than our zoo here in Lansing. Hannah was running on low sleep because of our vacation and the fact that we were at the zoo during her naptime. She did exceptionally well and really enjoyed herself. It was cool to see all the animals. My favorites were the bird sanctuary and the baby monkey. I definite favorite would have been the butterfly room, but they locked us out of the building before we got there. That gives us a reason to go again sometime. From there we found another hotel with a pool, got some dinner at Cosi, and relaxed some more. The next morning we hit Great Lakes Crossing for some shopping and worked our way back to Lansing via another outlet mall, Walmart, Target, and Kroger.

Though we were constantly busy, our time away was relaxing and refreshing for me. Being at another church always gives me good perspective for where I am at in my ministry at South. Driving in the car with my wife is always a fun time. We always end up driving around to find things that sometimes we don't find. It always gives us time to talk, giggle, and dream. Reconnecting with our families is always enjoyable. It helps me to remember where I came from and who I really am. It helps me to remember that I am unconditionally loved and supported by those I don't really see that often. That brings me much comfort. It also makes it hard to leave sometimes. Being in the place where you grow up is always refreshing to me. Why there is comfort in driving up over the hill and seeing the Apple Barrel, I will never know. Maybe its because it is a place of familiarity and memory. Maybe its because it reminds me of the past and the wonderful falls northeast Ohio always has. Maybe its because its only a mile or so from my home, and it symbolizes another journey close to an end. I don't think I need to completely understand. I simply need enjoy and bask in its comfort.

Speaking of comfort, I think I might have found my new office away from the office. The Dragonfly is a coffeeshop in a tiny plaza by the highway. It's small, quaint, with decent coffee and wifi. It doesn't feel stuffy like the last place I visited. The music is good and the people working here seem to be friendly. We'll see how it goes over the next couple of weeks.

Thanks for reading my ramblings.

August 24, 2006

Work and Bad Coffee

This week has been a tough one for me. Because Ron is leaving, there is a bit more work that I am picking up at the office. It is all good work and stuff that needs to be done. The problem is it stacked up on all the other stuff that I do. Needless to say, I'll be delegating out a bit more stuff (which I should have probably been doing before). I've really been searching for better ways to use my time and not be buried under the workload I have. One example of the things I have come up with is setting my email to only check twice an hour. It might even get set to every hour next week.

I have also been searching for a new offsite sanctuary. For those of you that know the south side of Lansing, my normal office away from home, Il Bacio Caffe, closed for good on Saturday. The owner will soon be living on the beach in Mexico. He had the coffeeshop up for sale, but it would have had to move from the plaza it was in. Not that I had $150,000 to buy a coffeeshop. I wish. Yesterday I went to Panera Bread, which in itself is a great place--free wireless, good bagels, and such. However, their coffee is horrible and it is really too far away, not to mention there are too many college girls that go through there.

Today I'm trying Cornerstone Coffee--a newer coffeeshop in Holt. While the location and the layout is quaint, I'm sitting at a glorified card table. There is no atmosphere here and honestly, the mocha is horrible. It has tons of potential, but its just not what I'm looking for. As I'm sitting here typing, a regular from Il Bacio is talking about why I'm at a glorified card table. The place got firebombed (yes, I said firebombed) a couple of weeks ago. I guess the regular tables, chairs, and such are being replaced. This place labels their coffee sizes in ounces. How not cool is that?

I hope next week will provide a better coffee joint for me to hang out in when I want to hide from the phones. Just as much, I hope that my focus and diligence for work is stronger than ever. It needs to be, otherwise I'm going to drown in work and bad coffee.

August 20, 2006

Missed Celebrations

I've started this post about 3 times. It never really flowed. It doesn't mean that I don't want to write. It simply means that my mind, for some reason, doesn't want to let go of what is in my head. Why is that? I don't know. I wish I did.

Each time I've started this written thought I've wanted to dote on my family history. I've begun to write about how long many of the marriages in my family have lasted, talking about my grandparents 60th wedding anniversary that I remember when I was like 4 or 5. I've talked about how my family is mostly normal--how they gave me a good solid base of life.

I've also started out talking about the different stories that I've heard from the church people I minister to. Some of their stories are great, similar to mine. Some, however, are gut wrenching and hard to hear, because of the pain they have had to endure from the lack of love in their families.

The whole point I was trying to build up to was the fact that I did not get the chance to go back to Ohio to celebrate my aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniversary celebration, which I really wanted to attend. This post was going to be a tribute to their faithfulness and love through such a long time and to the others in my family that have done the same.

unfortunately, it has never come out the way I wanted. It has never flowed with the impact I wanted. Maybe that is the point. My family history is very impressive. Most of my aunts and uncles have stayed faithful and committed to their spouses. My grandparents both would have eclipsed 60 years of marriage had death not come. And, even in death, my grandmother continued to show her love and respect for my grandfather. My immediate family has the same run of commitment.

Here is what I've come to get out of all of this. While my family history with relationships is impressive, there is nothing flashy about any of them. Each relationship has had its share of hardship and pain. My parents have been through hardships like my father losing his job after 24 years of hard work and commitment. My grandparents on my mother's side endured losing a child and dealing with the depression while raising five kids. I could tell you about my Aunt Garnet who, though losing Uncle Chet to cancer some time ago, still has that smile and twinkle in her eye when she talks about him and then quickly she fights back the tears because she misses him so much. She is no wimpy lady either, she in her 80s and still waiting tables at the Four Winds restaurant where she's worked for decades.

My family is made of grit and character. They are true to who they say they are, and they are not ashamed of who that is. They take the good and the bad and make the best of it, no matter what the cost. That is why I believe they have such an impressive string of commitment and love. Marriage and longevity isn't made of fancy things and impressive gifts. Its made of people who are willing to love others more than themselves.

You can't really make that flashy and catchy in writing. It is what it is. My prayer is that I can continue the Lowman/Brunner heritage and love the way those who are before me love.

Thank you Aunt Kay and Uncle Claude for the example of 50 years! I'm sorry I missed the celebration.

August 12, 2006

Reveling and Remembering

Today was a good day. It started out with a golf benefit for Great Lakes Christian College at Centennial Acres golf course. There's nothing better that great golf with friends that benefits GLCC. After golf and lunch, I came home, mowed part of the yard, and then spent time with Hannah and Steph. It has been a great day.

Tonight Hannah was extra cute. She's always cute, but tonight it was painful cute. When we went into the bathroom to brush her teeth, she just had that, "I'm cute and I know it look" on her face. Momma had just taken her hair out of her ponytail and it was falling forward around her face. I seriously could have sat there for hours and just looked at her face, her glistening eyes, everything about her. It was the same way last night. I finally got the burn permit for my fire pit out back. Last night was our first fire of the season. Hannah went with me to help build the fire. She was there right beside me, crinkling paper and breaking sticks. After we had the fire going, I played my tin whistle and she sang along. A little bit later, the elementary kids came over during their sleepover for smores. As they sat around the fire and told stories, Hannah sat among them and held hands with Marissa and another girl as they shared one of the cement blocks they were sitting on. I sat across from her, quietly observing and watching her in the flickering fire light, enamored by her every smile, look, and giggle.

I wonder how much of now she is going to remember. My earliest memories are of things like building forts and tents under the tables that my dad set up in the living room for the garden plants he always started in March and April. I remember going outside in the front yard to wait for my brother and sister to come home from school. I remember trips to my granparents house and sleeping on the couch in the spare room. I remember watching Johnny Carson in the reflection of the door from the couch when I was supposed to be sleeping.

Yet, I don't remember any of those tender, taking in everything moments. Maybe its because I was a boy back then. Maybe its becasue as little kids we don't catch those things. I want Hannah to catch as many of them as I can. I want her to know how much I marvel at her beauty and innocence. I want her to know how much I love her, how much I will go out of my way to make everything in her life a blessing.

It is moments like these that help me only begin to understand the love that our God has for us. As I want her to feel nothing but love and hope, so our Father in heaven wants us to have love and hope. Even in our darkest hours, I think that he wants us to feel grace, love, and hope at any cost. I think that's why he's so committed to us--because he can't stop marveling at us.

Thank you Lord for allowing Steph and I to stumble into this parenting thing. Thank you for blessing us with one of the cutiest, smartes, and utterly amazing children on the face of this earth. Thank you for teaching me through her, through my love for her and her mother. May you give me every opportunity to make her life the best that it can be!

August 5, 2006

Home Invasion

When Steph and I lived in Tennessee, our apartment was a small 2 bedroom basement unit in a quad house. Honestly, the who quad would fit in the blueprint of the farmhouse we live in right now. It was tiny, sometimes dank, and not devoid of critters while we were there. One night, while I was working on my Old Testament Worship project, we were invaded by termites. Well, they weren't actually wood eating termites. They were the scout termites that search out new places to munch on for the rest of the wood eating colony. As I was sitting there typing and fretting because I had to pull together a 20 page paper and a hour presentation together in the matter of days, the vermin began falling from the ceiling light fixture. I got out the sweeper and proceeded to vacuum them up as they came through the light. Needless to say, I didn't get much work done that night. My prof was nice enough to give me an extension on the paper.

Yet another night while I was up working on a paper or something, I noticed a blur out of the corner of my eye. You know what I mean. You think you saw something catch your attention, so you turn and look. Most of the time, there is nothing. At that point, you figure you are hallucinating because of the lack of sleep and you press on with what you were doing. Not this night. As I turned to look, there in my shoe was a little brown mouse. The battle was on. If I remember correctly, I shut the door and put a towel under it so the thing couldn't escape to the hallway, or worse, to the bedroom where Steph was sleeping. I move things as quietly as I could. I tried and tried to corner him and catch him. It was back and forth for probably a half an hour. Then, the unthinkable. He somehow snuck out underneath the door.

At this point, I had to involve Steph. She doesn't like animals in the first place. In my mind, I can only imagine what she is going to do when I wake her at 3am because a mouse has just crawled into her closet. I think, "this is going to be great!" With her roused, she joins the battle. We proceed to empty out our hallway and block each exit with cd racks, towels under doors, and whatever else I can find. Then I attacked her closet, removing each box and such one at a time. After about another half an hour he was trapped in the wastebasket and quickly put outside to run free.

After that encounter, mice were a regular thing in our basement apartment. We would catch one every once in awhile on a trap under one of the cabinets in the kitchen. The landlord couldn't totally figure out where they were coming in from. He steel wooled some of the holes that looked suspicious and left us to fend for ourselves.

Unfortunately, this was not the most memorable. That occasion would have been when Steph was awaken by something chirping. I figured it was a cricket, since they were very common in our dank basement apartment. It annoyed her enough that she got out of bed to go make noise in the hallway, hopefully scaring it to be quiet again. As she stepped out of bed, another chirp came from right beside her foot. They were not crickets talking however. They were baby mice calling for their mother. She would not come to their aid that evening, for she got greedy for peanut butter and was dead in the trap in the kitchen. There was no hour long ordeal that evening. I quickly scooped up 4 or 5 baby mice into a shoe box and duct taped them together so they couldn't come back in. Morbidly, I think I tossed their mother in with them before I put the shoe box in the dumpster.

Now, I know you are probably wondering when I'm actually going to get to the point. Oh, there is more to tell.

Our mice woes followed us to Michigan. We live in a farmhouse that is roughly 140 years old.
The basement walls are like swiss cheese if you are small and in need of a warmer place to stay. We found one mouse one year, dead under the fridge. We thought nothing of it. I don't even think I bought traps. That was, until I got a bird feeder. A good friend of mine bought me a bird feeder for Christmas our first or second year here. I quickly hung it and began to enjoy the multitude of birds that would come and feed. It made me think often of my grandmother, who had a fond love for birds and could tell some of them by their whistles and noises. It was about that time that we began to be invaded by mice. At first it was just one. He popped his way into the living room one night while Steph and I sat on the couch watching a movie. I guess he just wanted to watch it with us. I tried for a little while to catch him, but gave up. With new traps set the next day, he was quickly eradicated.

Unfortunately, his brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles, amongst other kin, decided to come along with him into our house. A couple of days later, we noticed some mice on the front porch at night, eating bird seed. We also began finding tiny piles here and there in the house. Needless to say, the birdfeeder has been stored since then. We caught 10 or so mice that year.

Even now, we get a stray mouse every once in awhile. However, they are greedy little vermin who love peanut butter. Two traps continually wait for them, and more often than not, do the job we want them to do.

In addition to mice, our house has become home to insects like carpenter ants and box elder bugs. This year has been the worst. I think I killed thousands of box elder bugs this spring. They would congregate on the outside bricks in the sun, all huddled together like a giant mass of bug. Their exoskeleton doesn't do well with dish soap mixed with scalding hot water, so I've found out. And, to our joy, I either killed the bulk of them or they went somewhere else for the rest of the summer. I pray they don't return.

Then comes along the heat the past couple of weeks. That sends the carpenter ants out of the 140 year old walls into our house. I think I sprayed 3 or 4 times in the last week. I think they mock me when I come with the spray gun. They run around haphazardly and beg me to try and hit them. Unfortunately for them, I also have sandals that squish. Steph's parents were here last week. Grandpa did his fair share of ant killing around here. Whether it was a shoe or a tissue, many an ant was squashed and discarded last week.

Hannah even gets in on the action. You'll hear her scream, "ANT, ANT!" and see her run for a shoe, which she quickly then begins whacking on the floor until the target is properly obliterated. In the house, this is good. Outside on the porch, not so good. I think she killed 3 or 4 pill bugs who innocently ventured out of the yard onto the sidewalk behind the house today. Bugs beware, the crazed two year old is on the rampage!

There are also the aforementioned groundhogs. If I could only get Hannah to take her shoes after them.

One would think that we've had our fill of vermin and pestilence already. I wish that were the case. It seems that farmhouses are also a welcome mat for bats. Now, I knew I had bats in the attic. One night while grabbing a fan for CIY, I noticed an innocent little bat hanging from one of the rafters, startled by my presence and the light in his quiet attic. Bats in the attic don't bother me. They bother Steph, but that just keeps her out of the attic (though she never really went out there anyway because it is "creepy"). I know they are there because of their poo droppings. I don't mind it. I look when I go out to make sure they aren't going to attack my head and I'm good to go. Every once in awhile, one will find its way into our ceiling, between the drop ceiling and the old plaster ceiling. We'll sit in the living room and hear it flop back and forth for awhile before it finds its way back from where it came. No big deal.

However, this summer we started seeing droppings in the basement. Not all that surprising to me--it is an old house with lots of open passage ways from the attic to the basement. Steph doesn't like it too much since the washer and dryer are in the poo path. It creeps her out, but she knows that I will probably turn the clothes the wrong color, so she braves it. Sometimes I go down with her to help protect her, not that I'll really be able to do anything since bats are quite jittery and uncatchable. Sometimes she stands at the top of the steps before entering the chasm and screams, "I'M COMING DOWN!!!!!!!!" It is quite a scene.

We also see the bats come out every night. Its somewhat fun to me to watch them swoop out of the back porch from the attic to feast on the plethora of mosquitos we have. I like them for that! If that were all, I would be geeked. Yet, that is not the case.

Tonight when we came home from our weekly trip to Wallyworld, I was greeted by a rather large bat circling in the living room. I would guess his wing span was 10 inches or more. Luckily, Hannah was slow getting out of the car and her and momma were still outside. I, once again, went out to tell Steph that we were being invaded yet again and that she might want to wait outside, which she gladly did. Having the bat in the living room poses both good luck and bad luck. The good luck is that the front door is right there. Its a nice big space that the bat can fly through to get back out into the open air where he belongs. The bad part about the living room is that there are 5 other doors leading to other places in our house, all of which were open when I clicked on the light and was greeted by a bat swooping at my head.

I think God was on my side tonight. After shutting 4 of the 5 doors, the bat realized that it was soon to get ugly if he didn't get out of the house. He circled one last time and silently exited through the front door. I'm still a little befuddled on how he got in the house. All the screens are in place. The door to the attic and basement are always closed. If anything, he came in the crack above the attic door, though I would guess he was too fat for it. Oh well. He's gone now.

Needless to say, I'm tired of being invaded by critters. I don't like the fact that their presence, even though they are part of God's creation and quite beautiful in their own regard, disrupts the sanctity of my home. My wife will have sonic ears and eyes for the next few days now that we've been visited. I will to a little. I guess you could say we've become accustomed to the critters over the last 8 years--to the continual home invasion.

Our spiritual lives are the same way, though. We do our best to keep things clean and vermin free. We study, we pray, we ask others (hopefully) to keep us accountable to be people of the light. And yet, even in all of that, the darkness seeps in and messes things up. If we aren't diligent about it, the darkness will stay and steal away the light. It will infest the house and eventually, if left unchecked, destroy it.

We are diligent against the bugs, the mice, and the bats in this old house. Even in our diligence, they still enter in unexpectedly, invading our home. Sin and darkness is the same way. What traps and preventative measures do you have in place to deal with it quickly, so the light stays light? Or are you infested and feeling helpless? There is hope! Clean the house. Put away the bird feeder. Clog up all the places where darkness can seep in. Get help! We as Christians are all in this together, helping one another stay in the light.

Psalm 1 (TNIV)

Blessed are those who do not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but who delight in the law of the LORD
and meditate on his law day and night.

They are like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will be destroyed.

July 24, 2006

Buttons and Belts

Why is it that buttons fall off at the most inopportune times? I was in the bathroom at the mall the other day, doing what you do in a bathroom, when the button on my shorts popped off. This wouldn't have been a problem if I had remembered to put on a belt that morning. However, I had not. When I was done with my business, I zipped, washed, and headed out the door, praying that the zipper would stay in place and keep my shorts in the appropriate place. Unfortunately, it did not hold. Now, I know what you are thinking. Stop it. I did not fully lose my shorts to gravity. It was close, though. I spent the rest of our time in the mall with my hands in my pockets, holding up my shorts.

Life is like that sometimes. When you least expect it, something bad happens and makes everything even worse. It would be really easy to cower into a corner and give up. Some will choose this solution. Others will get mad at the situation and lash out. Yet others will decide to improvise and troubleshoot what has happened to make the best out of the situation. This is the hard road in my opinion. Though, it is the road that I seem to be walking lately--the road that I have not chosen. I do not feel like I get to make my own decisions right now. The only option I have is to react to what has already happened and make the most of it. That is not always a good feeling. It is definitely not freeing.

Tenacity is a word I learned at 8th grade basketball camp. One of the coaches there used it to describe how one should play defense. He was the most intense of all the coaches that week. He was the hardest of all the coaches. We dreaded drill time with him. But, thinking back, he was the one that I remember. I can still hear him screaming in my head, “butt to the baseline!"

When the road we walk becomes tough, we need to become tenacious with how we live. This is especially true for those who claim faith in the most High. Faith is nothing if it does not include anything more than mere thoughts. It is nothing if it is not lived out tenaciously when things get hard, even if it gets too hard to handle and your only option is to react. That is when the want to be faithful, to live out kingdom ways needs to take over. There needs to be a deep resolve to live out the fruit of the Spirit and not become worldly with our actions. We need to lay aside the thoughts of revenge, anger, and giving up and be the people that God has called us to be--those who are called by his name because they are holy--set apart and different.

Paul tells us that we need to cloth ourselves in the armor of light in Romans 13. In Ephesians 6, its the armor of God. Interestingly, the first part of that armor is the belt of truth.

"Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist. . ."

Ironically (to me anyway), I was wearing a pair of the new shorts I bought on the aforementioned shopping trip today. When I went to the bathroom, the button on them fell off. Brand new, yet already broken. And to think, I almost didn't wear a belt today because they were new.

Be ready for anything and make the most of what God puts before you!

July 18, 2006


Thirteen years ago today, Steph and I returned from a trip to Toronto, Canada with friends from our church college group to see The Phantom of the Opera at Pantages Theatre and to visit Niagra Falls. It was a great trip with many highlights, like running through the parking deck in our formal attire because we were late in getting to the opera. The night of the opera she wore a red, polka dot dress. I remember it as if it were yesterday. She was stunning!

That night we went out to Chilis, which is her favorite restaurant. If I remember right, we both had burgers, and of course, chips, salsa, and skillet queso. After dinner, we drove to the church we grew up at, and I proposed to her in my powder blue Ford Escort under the carport of the church. I was going to propose to her at Niagra Falls. I had the ring in my pocket, ready to go, but it wasn't right. It was too public. She knew it was coming, and didn't want it to happen there.

Now, some might say that proposing in a powder blue Escort under a carport is not romantic. Yet, for us, it was perfect. We grew up at that church. We played in the nursery together, though we don't really remember it. We were in church plays together there. I sang in the choir beside her father. It was the center of our connection.

That night she agreed to be my wife. My love for her was strong then, though it was a different kind of love that I have for her now. It was a young love, steeped in infatuation and innocence. And, from that moment on, I've been learning about her and loving her more as every day passes. We've come a long way from that quiet night in my car. It has not always been perfect. It has not always been easy. At times, it was downright horrible and painful. Even in those times, love has carried us through.

My love for my wife is the deepest ever right now. She has not always been perfect. Neither have I. Yet, we've always committed to doing our best to right wrongs and show love as best we can. She's given me the most beautiful daughter anyone could ever want. And, as I have watched her be a mother to Hannah, my love for her has multiplied many times over.

Babydoll, thank you for your presence in my life. Thank you for the last thirteen plus years of friendship. Thank you for staying beside me in this journey that we are on, even during the hard times. Thank you for seeing through my inadequacies and loving me anyway. I have done my best to do the same. Thank you for being the mother that you are to our daughter and for loving her the way you do. You are still stunning to me, even though you don't think it at times. You will always be stunning to me. I thank God every day for you and pray that he would continue to give us love, life, and hope. I promise to continue to cherish and love you in every way possible for as long as I live.

July 3, 2006


My back yard is full of groundhogs. That's what happens when you live on what used to be a farm. They used to live out in the field to the north of the farmhouse I live in, but they were ran out of town by our church building. It's been fun watching the baby groundhogs run around the back yard from year to year.

The only real run in I've ever had was last summer. One of the babies was up close to the house one day when Steph, Hannah, and I came home one afternoon. Me, being the guy that I am, decided to take off and chase it, to introduce it to the greater of God's creation called man. However, the little furball rodent had not learned to fear the greater creation and quickly turned and charged me. This wouldn't have been a problem had I been wearing real shoes; I would have punted him into next week. However, I was wearing flip flops because it was summer. Naked toes and sharp teeth don't go together in my paradigm of life, so I did what any 270 pound man would do--turned and ran like a little girl. My wife still giggles about it.

On Saturday, we piled into the car to take Hannah to Fast Track (our hospital's version of a walk in clinic) because of some minor health issues. I go to start the car and nothing happens. Mind you, the car has been sitting for a week while we were at CIY, and worked well the last time I drove it. Needless to say, I was frustrated. My daughter was sick, my car didn't work. It wasn't a good day. Later that afternoon I made a few phone calls to those who are more car repair oriented than me and came to the conclusion that either my starter was bad or that some of the extra electronic gizmos they put on your cars was not working. I knew it was way beyond my expertise, so I pushed my car out of it's normal spot in my driveway so the tow truck to take it away on Monday.

Sunday rolls around and one of the before mentioned car repair oriented peoples stops by to take a look. As we are looking under the hood, I see this foot behind the engine. It is attached to a hairy, furballish body. I quickly grabbed a stick and began poking and prodding at it to get it out of my engine. Why an animal that God created to live in the ground decided to crawl up into my engine compartment is beyond me. But he was there. I figured that the car was closer to his turf than its place in the driveway. He was just exploring. He left after awhile, once we stepped away from the car.

Now, I know what you are thinking. The car doesn't start, maybe the little furball chewed threw something. I thought that too, as did my wife. Yet, when I looked behind the engine compartment, there didn't seem to be any wires that he could chew on. Plus, I figured he was just crawling up in there because he was young and fearless (remembering back to my earlier encounter with one of his brothers/uncles).

This leads to this morning. Before the tow company came to pick up my car, I saw the furball and one of his siblings playing in my front yard. As I tried to scare them, one ran under the car. While this frustrated me, I didn't want the little guy to take a scary ride to the auto dealership. So I popped the hood and promptly gave him a few more good whacks with the stick, which sent him scurrying for the safety of his hole in the ground. Hopefully he has learned his lesson.

About an hour ago, I got a call from the car dealership. It seems that my little engine stowaway chewed through a wire harness or something to that effect. It's going to cost me $275 with the tow to get my car back up and running.

It's going to be a bad week for groundhogs. . .

June 26, 2006

Taking a Breath

It has been some time since I posted on this thing. Not because I haven't wanted to. I've just been busy. Steph and I got some time to relax for our 11th anniversary at Cedar Point while Grandma and Grandpa Kuhl came and took care of Hannah Grace. Hannah had them both wrapped around her finger.

Last week was Deeper Life camp at Michiana. It was a great week. It's hard to believe that we've been doing Deeper Life for 10 or 11 years now. It has been a great ministry with tons of great kids going through the program.

Now I'm at Adrian College for CIY summer conference. It should be a great conference. I hope it is somewhat relaxing. I could use the breath of fresh air. Summer should be relaxing. . . but I travel too much.

Pray for my family and my students this week as we take in another week of spiritual searching and growth. I'll be praying for you!

May 31, 2006

Raspberry Beret & Handicap Parking

I have a feeling that today is going to be a strange, random day.

As I sit here in the coffee shop, getting ready to finish up the small group study that I am writing for our discipleship ministry at South, the song Raspberry Beret is playing on the radio. Now, know that such a song has no significance for my life, other than the fact that it came from 1985--the year of 8th grade. Rather, I find it odd that a song over 20 years old is beaming over the radio station and invading my "second office" here at Il Bacio Cafe. I certainly don't need "She wore a raspberry beret" running constantly through my head all day, like it is at the moment.

My mind is already challenged today. I have been up and moving since 6:00am, though I really only now feel a little awake after a nice strong cup of Jamacian Me Crazy. Even when my mind has been awake and moving, it has struggled to stay focused and on the right path. I have been easily distracted.

For example, as I sit here, singing "she wore a raspberry beret" in my head, a man pulls into the handicap spot outside of the coffee shop. I sit in side and watch, to see if he is really handicapped or not. He hops out of his minivan and strolls in to buy his morning "red eye" (a triple espresso laced with coffee, I think), full of coolness and hip. He's certainly not handicapped. As he opens the door, I want to ask him a simple question: "Dude, do you find it hard to park two spaces over in the EMPTY parking lot and actually follow the rule of not parking in a handicap parking spot since you are not handicapped?" People like that make me want to scream. From there, my mind jumps to Carlos Mencia. I sit and run through things he would say to this guy. They aren't nice. Funny, but not nice. I won't repeat them.

Now I'm distracted by the trio of old people sitting a couple of tables away discussing property, retirement, vacations, and money at hearing aid volumes as Shania Twain beams,
"we will be together always," across the messed up radio station they have playing here. Oh look, another non-handicapped handicap space parking person.

On days like today, when it's really hard to focus and not curse at people, I find hope in the fact that for some reason God loves each of these people with everything he has. He weeps for them some times, especially when they park where they are not supposed to. He hurts for those too full of themselves, like Prince, to understand that they are simple, created beings in the shadow of the Creator. It is easy to wonder why he loves them so, to struggle with the shear ridiculousness of such love. But, then, I realize that I am no better than them. While I don't park in handicap spaces, I struggle with the same darkness that others wallow in.

I think our biggest challenge as God's people is to see and love others as God sees and loves them. This is a scary and difficult thing to do. To see others through the eyes of God, we need to see ourselves through the eyes of God. We have to admit that we are spiritually bankrupt and empty without him. Yet, as we get better at that and realize our need to bask continually in God's grace and love, our anger and rage for people will fade away. Our eyes will be open and our hearts will hurt and love just as God's does, for ourselves, and for those around us--discussing the Oprah book of the month.

May 12, 2006

A Tale of Two Kitties

After reading today's installment of Calvin and Hobbes, I wondered if I could find a Hobbes doll for my daughter. I love the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, and it would be only fitting that my daughter have a Hobbes doll, even though she is nothing like Calvin . . . yet.

To Google I went in search of a stuffed animal. However, I did not find any. It seems Bill Watterson wanted to keep his comic strip a comic strip, and did. What I did find was an article about A Tale of Two Kitties.

Never in a million years would I have ever complained about a stuffed animal being made from a cartoon or comic strip until I read the article. It helps me to understand what I've heard some say about C.S. Lewis not wanting his stories put into a movie format. While, I'm glad they did, there is a sense of mystery and imagination that will ever be gone.

At the same time, I have always been frustrated with the scads and scads of Christian trinkets that are continually overtaking the Christian bookstores. I will admit, a few of the things are very nice. But the ugly and gaudy things definitely outnumber the nice. Even more, the person who created Testamints needs taken out behind the woodshed.

Please note that I am not standing on the soapbox pointing fingers with this. I am just as guilty of this as the next guy. I have tried to entertain with some of the things I've done in ministry, rather than pushing to be real and honest about what we are to be as Christians. I've followed the fads. Even more, I own a bobble head Jesus. It was a gift from my Sr. Minister. It was meant for a laugh. Now, today, it is a reminder of how we've lost the true understanding of who Christ is.

May the God of all creation show us grace with how we've sold the church. May we learn to focus on living holy lives and loving others and shy away from the glitz and glamour of what the world has told the church it needs to be. May we think theologically about our billboards, our flashy mailers, our catchy sermon series, our fancy $30,000 church signs, and our ostentatious buildings. May our walk with God as his people and our desire to live out the words of his Son reshape our very existence. May it change every breath and every step.

May 7, 2006

The Bird Man

Lansing has its share of interesting figures around town. Some of them are more notable than others. ONe of the more recognizable people is the singing Elvis. He is a man who walks around singing Elvis songs with his Walkman headphones on. He looks like an Elvis impersonator, complete with chops sideburns and the big, kingish sunglasses. If you are in a place like Meijer, you can hear him a row or two over. He seems like a normal guy, other than the fact that he sings Elvis songs all the time. I checked out behind him once at the store. When the clerk gave him his change, he said, "thank you, thank you very much." No lie.

Another notable was the Bird Man. He was known by all who live in the little town south of where I live. If you were to drive by the Quality Dairy, there was a good chance you would see him sitting on the sidewalk beside his three wheel bike drinking coffee and feeding the birds. Those who worked at the QD said he was a friendly man. I never really knew him, only of him. Any time I saw him, I had the urge to stop and buy him a coffee or dinner. I never really acted out on these urges. I won't have the chance now.

The bird man's real name was Gilbert Kolonich. At one point in his life, he owned a gas station and a party store with his wife. He was artistic and musical. The article in the paper quotes his wife as saying "he was successful at anything he tried." He was the father of two boys. But then, a disease took him from them.

For the last 20 years, Mr. Kolonich has been battling paranoid schizophrenia. It cause him to leave his wife and family and become a loner, and eventually, a known interesting figure in a small community. Its really a sad story. This past week, he suffered a heart attack and died alone in his apartment.

To me, the bird man looked friendly and warm, like the ghost of Christmas Present in A Muppet's Christmas Carol. From the distance that I looked, he seemed like someone who could carry on an interesting conversation about anything. Yet, I doubt many people ever stopped to talk to him or learn about his life.

How often do we as humans turn our heads or avert our eyes from those who are on the fringe? Why are we so afraid? It wouldn't have cost me much to buy a stranger a cup of coffee and to learn a little about his life. How much ministry could I have done for him? How much ministry would he have done for me? But I didn't, the same as most of the other people who knew of the bird man, but did not know him.

As I sit here and think, my mind quickly shifts to the multiple accounts in the Gospels where Jesus encounters interesting figures and doesn't change his course to avoid them. Rather, he stops and talks with them; he heals them; he shows them love. He found joy in them. His actions, coupled with the death of this random man that I did not know challenges me to be more aware and loving of those around me, even if it means that I am going to be uncomfortable.

I am sure that you have your own singing Elvis or bird man in your community. What are you going to do? May the love of our Savior challenge you to do something more than averting your attention to something else, acting like you don't see, when really you do.

May 1, 2006

A Book List

Over the last 5 years, I have really been challenged and shaped by the teaching of Rob Bell. I have heard him speak in person two times and I've listened to a dozen or so of his sermons online at Mars Hill. I have also seen a couple of his Nooma videos and read his book, Velvet Elvis. In everything he does there is a frankness about what he has to say. He's right there in your face with the Bible. He always has great Jewish insights to what is going on in the text and in the background of the text.

This morning I went to one of Bell's websites and found a suggested reading list from him. You don't know how excited this makes me. It is like a magician telling a stragner all of his secrets, showing you where his mystery came from. I figured I would share my find with you!

Rob Bell's Reading List

Walking The Bible : A Journey By Land Through The Five Books Of Moses (Bruce Feiler)
Jewish Spirituality, A Brief Introduction For Christians (Lawrence Kushner)
The Jewish New Testament Commentary : A Companion Volume To The Jewish New Testament (David Stern)
Excavating Jesus : Beneath The Stones, Behind The Texts (Crossan and Reed)
Biblical Literacy : The Most Important People, Events, and Ideas Of The Hebrew Bible (Joseph Telushkin)
Understanding The Difficult Words Of Jesus : New Insights From A Hebraic Perspective (Bivin and Blizzard)
Desire Of The Everlasting Hills : The World Before And After Jesus (Thomas Cahill)
Everyman's Talmud : The Major Teaching Of The Rabbinic Sages (Abraham Cohen)
Sketches Of Jewish Social Life (Alfred Edersheim)
Jewish Sources In Early Christianity (David Fleusser)
The Five Books Of Moses : Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (The Schocken Bible Volume 1) (Everett Fox)
The Women's Torah Commentary : New Insights From Women Rabbis On The 54 Weekly Torah Portions (Elyse Goldstein)
God In Search Of Man : A Philosophy Of Judaism (Abraham Joshua Herschel)
The Bible As It Was (James L. Kugel)
The Source (James Michner)
The Science Of God : The Convergence Of Scientific And Biblical Wisdom (Gerald L. Schroeder)
Slaves, Women And Homosexuals : Exploring The Hermeneutics Of Culture Analysis (William J. Webb)
The Divine Conspiracy : Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God (Dallas Willard)
Our Father Abraham : Jewish Roots Of The Christian Faith (Marvin Wilson)
Following Jesus : Biblical Reflections On Discipleship (N.T. Wright)
For All God's Worth : True Worship And The Calling Of The Church (N.T. Wright)
The Jews In The Time Of Jesus : An Introduction (Stephen Wylen)
Jesus The Jewish Theologian (Brad Young)


April 22, 2006

Magnolias and Dandelions

Today has been a busy day. My wife is in spring cleaning mode, so we spent most of the day attacking the kitchen. It is a great feeling to accomplish something and see the results.

Tonight, Hannah was getting a little stir crazy after dinner. So, her and I headed outside to water the flowers with her new watering can that grandma and grandpa bought her for Easter. I was also wanting to take a picture of the magnolia tree behind the farmhouse that is in full bloom. As you can see from the picture, it is magnificent!

While I took pictures, Hannah addressed the dandelions, giving them more than plenty to drink. It was fun to watch the dandelions quickly close as she dowsed them with ice cold water from the hose. She was in heaven playing gardner to the pretty yellow flowers.

At what point do I tell her they are weeds and we don't like them? That is the beauty of children, I think. They are able to see the good in everything, even if it is an ugly weed. They see beauty in almost everything. For Hannah, there is beauty in the bugs that invade out house every year. We will hear a lady bug bumping off the ceiling and she'll scream, "it's a bug, it's a bug!" while pointing up and jumping like she just found a lost treasure.

God has taught me so much through her. God has taught me so much through watching my wife be a mother. It is unimaginable, the amount of things he has taught me over the last few years.

Thank you, little one, for being my joy and for showing me how much I missed about life and God before you came to us. I will do my best to cherish every moment and look forward to the moments to come!

Thank you, my love, for being a great mother to our daughter. As I have told you before, each day I see something in you, the way you deal with Hannah's terrible two moments, the way your eyes twinkle when you play with her, or whatever, that grows my love for you, farther beyond what I ever imagined!

Thank you, Lord, for blessing me with a beautiful daughter and a wonderful wife, who show me more and more each day about how to love and be loved. You are an awesome God who created both magnolias and dandelions, along with many other pretty and not so pretty things, like me. May I continue to revel in your beauty, greatness, grace, and love.

April 3, 2006

Psychoanalyzing Suicide Worms

Every year as the weather turns nice, I eagerly await the coming of suicide worms. Every spring, when it has rained just the right amount and the temperature is exactly as it needs to be, nightcawlers emerge from the ground in droves. They seek out pavement, blacktop, and sidewalks to bask in the newness of spring. Unfortunately, they aren't the brightest of creatures. They either get squished by anything passing by or they end up roasting in the morning sun--being cooked into nasty looking, dried out worm bacon.

Most of you who live in Michigan will have seen and experienced suicide worms. Maybe they are other places, I do not know. I have only seen them here in Michigan. I can remember back to when I was a student at Great Lakes Christian College watching a couple of my friends who were nature lovers take 30 minutes to walk 300 feet from the girls dorm to the Administration building. Along their journey, they would bend and toss each nightcrawler back into the grass so they would not get stepped on or fried. I remember marveling at their yearly exodus.

This morning was the day of the suicide worms. As I walked to the office around 6:30am, the sun was gleaming as it peaked over the horizon. It was a great sunrise where the Eastern sky was ablaze in color. When I came to parking lot, I saw them. There were hundreds upon hundreds of worms soaking in the early rain that still lay on the blacktop. Some were fat and long, completely stretched out, trying to take in every millimeter of existence they could, while others, slithered along trying to find a better piece of asphalt. They were taking in the day as best they could, leaving their safe underground dwellings to experience life a little differently for a moment. As the oranges and reds of the sunrise began to dance on the parking lot, I could see each and every worm's earthy existence standing out against the reflection of the sun.

I am sure there is a reason they come out into the open like they do, not that I want to know why. I am glad they do. It is a sign to me that spring has arrived, just like the birds beginning to sing around 6am every morning. They help me to realize that there is something more to life than staying submerged in the dirt. For them, it is there moment; they grasp at it with everything they are, even at the risk of being scorched by the sun or squashed by a passing car. They don't belong on pavement, but they slither there way there. And in the process, they get noticed
by big, stupid humans like me. I don't see them because they are doing something extravagant like back flips or the tango. I notice them because they are something different on the horizon that I am not used to seeing. Their presence is a stark contrast to the drab, boring asphalt they lay upon.

Now, I'm sure some of you are thinking I'm completely nuts, psychoanalyzing a goofy bunch of worms that are dumb enough to go someplace they aren't suppose to go every spring. But am I? Picture in your mind, if you will, a large parking lot with a bunch of people laying down haphazardly on the wet pavement. As people drove by, do you think they would take notice? Certainly, people trying to park in the parking lot would notice, as they had to navigate around all the people laying on the ground. The people laying down wouldn't have to do anything more than lay there to be noticed. They wouldn't have to shout, wave their arms, or make conversation because their existence would be easily seen.

If we are called to be the people of God, the salt of the earth and the light of the world, we have something to learn from the suicide worms. They are what they are called to be no matter where they are. We claim to be God's people. My question would be, does our living match up to what we claim? This challenges us to really think about and be solid on what we claim and believe. It also challenges us to put it into practice, to roll around in it and to feel it ooze between our toes. When we do that, I believe the world will take notice just like I took notice of some suicide worms--not because they did anything fancy, but because they were worms where they shouldn't have been.

Go read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) ten times and bask in the newness of spring . . . and if you feel like it, lay down in a wet parking lot and see if anyone notices.

March 22, 2006

Creeped Out

This morning I find myself at my regular table in the coffee shop. It is a place of comfort for me. It is a familiar place. Places and things have a comforting feel to them. Everyone has them. Maybe for you, it is meatloaf. Meatloaf, which I had yesterday at Cracker barrell, reminds me of my early years at home. My mom makes great meatloaf. It was cheap to make, so we had it fairly often. When I have it now, it does more than just fill my stomach. It makes me feel at home and think back to the love I felt growing up. Music has the same effect. If my mind is racing or cannot focus, I grab Rich Mullins' Songs CD or my guitar and find comfort and peace. For my daughter, her Cat in the Hat doll and her Travel Cow stuffed animals are her comfort. They are the things she needs to feel comfortable in bed and fall asleep.

This morning as people made their way in and out of the coffee shop, feeding their caffeine addictions, I noticed a lady sitting in one of the wicker chairs up by the counter. She was just sitting there, staring out the window. It did not bother me at first. I figured she was waiting on someone to arrive before ordering coffee. That is a normal thing that happens here at the coffee shop. But, the next time I looked up from the computer, she was still there, staring. . .Waiting. As I tried not to stare, I noticed she was talking to herself. She was just sitting there, staring out the window, talking. Not just normal talking to yourself, not that that is normal in public--she was talking loudly, like you would to someone else sitting in the chair across from you.

The normal quiet place where I sit, work, and drink coffee was different then. It was "threatened" so to speak by something that was not normal, something that was different, something that made me a bit uneasy.

She sat there for a few more minutes and then went to the counter to order her drink. It was at that point that I noticed the wire dangling from her ear. She was on her cell phone talking the whole time--not just talking to herself.

At the moment I feel a bit guilty. Here I was, taking up public space that I feel is my own (if my table is taken when I come into the coffee shop, I don't stay as long as I usually do because it's just not right. Please don't comment on that, I know I am a mess) being creeped out because something was not normal. What right did I have more than she had to be in here, staring out the window, talking?

There are so many questions and thoughts running through my head right now. Why did I get defensive about space that is not even mine? Why do we take so much ownership in things that are not ours really, to the point that we get selfish with them? When does what I want or what I feel is owed to me become wrong? Many examples come to mind--like road rage. Why do we feel we have more of a right to the road than others do. Why is it that people have to live up to our driving standards to drive around us? What about TV shows? I know people who will rearrange their schedules to make sure they get to watch "their" shows. Within the church, people think they should have "their music" and won't associate with anything that isn't what they want. In relationships, one side or the other will think that they have been wronged because they aren't getting what they want or treated like they think they should be--so they check out.

What right do I have to demand anything? If I put myself in the right perspective--a created being of God the Creator, I realize that I am totally bankrupt in every way shape and form. In that place, what I want becomes lost, and what is for the good of God is found. It is from here that I begin to understand what grace is--the chance to enjoy God's creation and all that is in it in a different light, a light formed by love rather than want. And out of all of it, a desire to help God's creation come to this realization and to bask in it comes, overflowing, like a never ending stream.

March 1, 2006

Over The River and Through The Woods

I am writing today from the Panera Bread on the north side of Canton, Ohio. Steph, Hannah, and I drove into town yesterday evening. We are getting a little break before a couple of hectic months of conventions, Easter, camp planning, and such. Plus, my daughter had not seen her grandparents since Christmas and it was time for them to see her. She's at that extremely cute stage where everything is cute and giggly for the most part, even though there are fits of terrible twos mixed in. It's grand enough that I want to share it with everyone, especially grandparents.

For those of you have not traveled with a two year old, let me give you some perspective. Strapping a two year old into a carseat for 4 hours plus without a break could be compared to trying to contain a Jr. Higher wired on Mt. Dew and pizza. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes it does not. We set out yesterday during nap time, hoping that Hannah would sleep for at least half of the trip. She did not cooperate. By Toledo (1/3 of the way) she was awake. Needless to say we sang, giggled for the next 2 1/2 hours. I think we sang Old McDonald 20 times. She's also gotten into speaking fake languages. It started with her just going, "ba ba ba ba" really loud and fast. Now we have converstions with bas, gings, hos, dees, and whatever else you can come up with. And, it brings about many giggles and squeals. It is the best.

As I sit here in the coffee shop, there is much commotion about me. Two young mothers are sitting close by talking about the Bible studies they are involved in, all the while, keeping the three small children with them contained. Across the way, an retired couple sit in a booth reading a book to one another. The lunch crowd is beginning to show up for their soup and bread. I'm listening to Rich while I try to keep up with the birage of emails that have come in over the wireless internet today. We've had a couple of deaths and a couple of people head into the hospital at South in the last 24 hours. It's a good reminder to me that even though I've tried to step away from Michigan, the ministry is still with me even far away.

In my mind, I wonder how many of them have gotten up today in anticipation for Lent. I never really knew about Lent before going to seminary. It wasn't something we did in my home church or that even was on my radar. While in seminary, I grew an appreciation for the church calander, liturgy, and the backgrounds behind them. Since then, I've always tried to at least keep my eyes open to what is going on with it with things like Lent and Advent. It helps me be connected to those who came before me in this thing we called faith.

Every year I try to think of something to do away with during Lent. The idea is to fast from something bewteen Ash Wednesday (the day after Fat Tuesday) and Easter. This helps you to prepare your mind, soul, heart, and whatever else for the coming rememberance of Christ's death and resurrection. And, as I've struggled to select something--normally soda pop, I always fail. My life of discipline is really a struggle. I never seem to make it through a fast or lent without failing. I find the same things true as I try to do things like daily prayer/bible study, reading, as well as doing my best to run from darkness. I fail all the way around. Hopefully this year will be better.

My goal with Lent this year isn't a specific item like diet coke. Rather, I'm starting my new diet today--one that will hopefully combat my bad gene pool of heart disease, high blood pressure, and bad cholestoral. I have also been challenged by life to be better at my time managment so that when I am working, I'm working hard, which will get work done faster and give me more time with my family. One other thing I am doing is following somewhat loosely to the ideas of a group in California called The Compact. People in that group have committed to one another to not purchase anything this year that they don't need. They have a set of guidlines posted on their website. I've mutated them some and I've come up with the following:

1. I won't buy anything I don't need. I certainly don't need more clothes. Everything I have is sufficient and plentiful. If I do need anything like shoes or jeans, I will not spend ridiculous amounts of money on them. I'm over 30. I'm not trying to impress anyone, nor am I really going to impress anyone. So, my standards are not that high. I have everything I need. I probably have more than I need. Over the next couple of months, I might even sell a couple of things I have that I don't need.

2. I'm going to take shorter showers. I can easliy drain the hotwater heater in the mornings trying to wake up. I'm purposefully going to try and limit my showers to less than 5 minutes. Why should I run all the water down the drain just to wake up? I'm sure it is going to save me money on water and on electricity to heat the water.

3. I'm only going to drink coffee when I go to the coffee shop. It is way too easy to drop 3 or 4 dollars on a latte at my local coffee shop. I don't go there as often as I used to, and now when I do, I'll stick to the $1.25 endless cup of good joe--highlander grog to be exact!

4. My family and I are going to eat at home more. This will help us save money and probably allow us to eat better. Plus, I enjoy cooking and I enjoy my wife's cooking. It will hopefully help us interact more than we would sitting in a loud restaurant.

I ask you to pray for me as I move forward on this quest for more disicpline in my life. I also challenge you to join me. Maybe you start small by giving up something like sweets. My friend has given up red meat for Lent. Maybe you will choose something more, like not buying anything you don't need. Whatever it is, may we move forward in our faith and prepare for the celebration of our risen Savior!