October 30, 2007


When I was growing up, my grandmother would make popcorn balls every fall. We're not talking about the fake popcorn balls that you see at Walmart every Halloween season, packaged neatly in their cellophane wrappers and orange box. No, these were incredible creations of taste that took much time and precision to make. If you've ever tried to make candy, you know how difficult it is to be patient and boil the ingredients to the exact temperature to get a "soft ball" or "hard ball" consistency. Gram was a pro, using her 80 years of practice and skill that had become second nature. Each year she would make two flavors--vanilla/karo syrup flavored which was a lot like faint carmel and molasseses flavored. After boiling and stirring for what seemed like hours, she would somehow mix in the popcorn and coat it perfectly before forming the treats and wrapping them in wax paper.

I can clearly remember walking into her house after raking leaves around her house and being allowed to dig into the garbage bag she stored them in. I can recall taste of them in my mind as if I were eating one right now.

In his book, Sex God (which everyone should read), Rob Bell notes how specific things are able to make our minds rush back through years and bring vivid memories in an instant. It could be something simple like walking through Walmart and seeing that box of wannabe popcorn balls. Maybe its a song that you haven't heard for years that takes you back to a specific moment in your life so many years ago. Sometimes those promptings and memories are painful and haunting to us.

For me, the intriguing thing about memories is the legacy. As I reflect back on my life and work through the endless amounts of memories, thoughts, and feelings that I have had and experienced, I have two ways to react. I can allow those memories to continually drag me down and hold me back. I can think through the ugliness that I've experienced at the hands of others like being picked on in school because I was the "fat kid" and feel sorry for myself and close myself off. I can let those things so many years ago physically and emotionally shape me right now. I can let those memories feed feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness that I felt then and that I sometimes feel now.

The flip side is that I can learn from the memories and move forward. I think of the multiple times I stayed awake at night growing up, waiting for my dad to come home from a night of drinking. I can vividly recall the fear and angst I felt as I lay there waiting to see the headlights flash in my window and hear the car pull into the driveway. Out of those experiences and memories, alcohol was never a temptation for me. The painful and ugly was transformed into positive.

I believe that God allows us to learn from what we have gone through--the rush of memories both good and bad. He is able to transform things into "good news". He can take the broken lives, relationships, and experiences and transform them into something new through grace and love if we allow Him to do so. He allows us to grow from them to do even greater things. We see that continually in Scripture in the lives of people like David and Paul. So, as you go through the day today and experience the memories caused by the popcorn balls, songs, or whatever, my prayer is that you know that God can turn the broken and ugly into good news. He is willing and able, he is eager to do so.

Gram has been gone for over 15 years now. A couple of Christmases ago I attempted, with the assistance of my Aunt Kay, to use Gram's faded recipe card to make popcorn balls. It was a poor attempt that produced mutant popcorn clumps that were only a shadow of what they were supposed to be. But, as we tried, I was in the past on those cold fall fall days, unwrapping a new, perfect popcorn ball from the garbage bag. I was in the present at Aunt Kay's with my family reveling in the past and experiencing the love of family that was the soul of Gram AND making new memories and more "good news". I was in the future, knowing that what I was experiencing was something I want my daughter to experience and revel in.

Thank you Lord, for the "good news".

October 26, 2007

He's Just Ugly

October 25, 2007

30 Year Apology

This is a very interesting article and topic to chew on. Willow Creek at one time was the pinnacle church to follow. Now they are saying they missed the mark. I love the humility of their leaders to say, we could have/should have done things better.

The thought in my mind right now is how will they move on from here? How will God use them to right what wrongs they have done? Our God is like that--turns our wrongs and undoings into good.

October 17, 2007

A Dark and Starry Morning

Its a dark and starry morning. I find myself at Cornerstone Coffee sipping on some good java and taking in the musical healing of David Crowder's Remedy. He is so good at telling God's story of salvation and restoration--God's willingness to chase after his creation and turn darkness into light.

It is there that I find myself this morning. Everything is good, for the most part. It has been a joy to have a new Sr. Minister at South. That has brought much peace, direction, and stability. It has given me a new passion and drive for what I do, for what is possible in the next few years there, if our people begin to seek, study, and serve. Home has been good. Steph and I are excited as we begin looking for a house to call our own. Hannah is growing up quickly. She constantly has something new and funny to say or do. Its hard not to smile when you are around her for the simple fact that she is filled with joy (unless she isn't getting her own way).

Yet, in all of that there is turmoil. As South turns and heads in the right direction, there are still rumblings and grumblings about music volume, theology, and so on. As Steph and I look for a house, it is easy to see and feel looming stress of such a big decision. The desire to do the right thing doesn't always bring peace. Rather, I believe it brings a giant magnifying glass into the dark, un-dealt with corners of our lives and amplifies what still needs addressed.

So, the question in my head this morning is, "what can I do about it?" Partly, I can't do anything about it. Some things simply won't work out, even if I go the extra miles to bring peace. In some things, I'm a million miles away from the situation anyway. Yet, there is much that I can do and influence. My prayer is, that I will be humble and forgiving as I strive to limit the amount of turmoil around me--running the dark and starry into bright sunshine, full of light.

October 1, 2007

Grandpa's Guitar

She'll be a star one day. And, in the process, my prayer is that she'll continue to cherish grandpa's guitar--the journey its had, the music that it has played, the connection it has brought to me and my father, and the rush of memories that its sight and sound bring to those who know of its journey.

Where To Start?

I got an email the other day from one of my ministry partners. It simply said, "How about an update?" On or around the same time my wife asked me if I was ever going to blog again. So, here I am.

There has been much life lived over the last three and a half months. Camps and CIY have come and gone. My family and I took a vacation or two. I began teaching Intro to Biblical Intrepretation at GLCC again (75 freshmen at 8:00am on Thursdays). Much of the last few months has been focused around Frank Weller coming to South as our new Sr. Minister and beginning to do ministry with him. It has been a good three and a half months. It has had ups and downs, just like any other time in my life. It has had some achievements, like my first dental crown. It has been filled with much thought, wondering, and prayer. I've seen lives changed for the new with much hope and excitement. I've stood beside friends who have totally wrecked their lives and done what I could to show grace and love. I've gotten to have joy in ministry again and see potential becoming reality--dreams being put into action.

In it all, I've seen God move and show light in the darkness. I've seen him turn rubble and brokeness into good news. I've been on the field for some of it. Unfortunately, I've sat in a front row seat and just watched too much.

God is good. I am still alive. I'm breathing in his greatness and doing everything I can to be a bearer of the divine. I'm reveling in the journey he has given me--the wife and daughter he has blessed me with, the ministry he has placed me in, the friends he has surrounded me with, the opportunities he has given me. Some days I do good. Some days I fall flat on my face before the sun comes up. In it all, God is still faithful and moving, and using me in whatever state I am in.