October 22, 2010

Dim then Bright . . . or at least Brighter Than Dim

I've really been thinking a bunch lately.  I'm nearing my 10 year anniversary here at South.  I've been thinking much about what I've done, what I've not done, what I should have done.  Plus, I've really felt like I've been in a rut with my job.  Nothing's really wrong, I guess.  I think that I've simply been doing it for 10 years now, and its become sort of second nature.  That's not good, in my opinion, because you just do the job then, or at least that is how I was feeling.   

Then, a few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to attend the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta, GA.  Simply put, Catalyst is a conference put on to encourage ministers and church leaders to continue on being the Kingdom of God and challenging their congregations to be the Kingdom of God.  It was a breath of fresh air to my soul, especially being in the place I was in before going.

There is not space here to share all the great messages, challenges, and what all that we heard and saw during the whirlwind two day conference.  But, I want to share what I've been thinking so I can try and unpack it out of my head and to hopefully have you all, my five or so faithful readers, enter into a dialogue about what to do with it, if anything.  So, here you go.

It seemed that at every corner of the conference, there were stories after stories of people doing huge things for those in other countries who either don't have stuff they need like clean water to drink or who were being treated with injustice in some way like being held captive as slaves in the sex trade.  These things really made my mind work.  Within 100 miles, we have Detroit, where people live in oppressed situations.  We have that here in Lansing.  There are strip clubs within 2 miles of my house and 1 mile of the church that I serve.  The people we heard from the stage are people who are taking action and doing something about what is around them--what they see.  I have really been struggling with the question of what am I doing here?  What am I seeing? What am I going to do about it?   What is breaking my heart?  Is anything breaking my heart?  If its not, why are my eyes broken?

In light of that, my mind has really been thinking about the freedom that the conference had to share what they shared, how they shared it.  They had covered their costs with the monies from those attending.  They were able to speak freely and challenge us to be God's kingdom here and now.  Their vision/voice was beyond the event.  The questions that bubble up to me then, is what is my vision?  Am I looking beyond the tasks I need to do week to week, or am I thinking in a bigger picture of what do I need to do to help the people at South see?

Even more simpler than that, I question how I am praying?  What am I praying for?  Am I putting myself in the path of God?  Am I praying enough and asking God what he wants to use me, what he wants me to see.  Or, am I simply asking him to provide what I think I need?  These are a few of the questions rolling around in my head.

I've been here almost 10 years.  What have I done?  How have I advanced the kingdom of God here at South?  I've had the privilege to be a part of some great things here.  I've had the opportunity to watch some of my students in the youth ministry understand what they are called to be and chase after it through Bible college and go into ministry.  Those are awesome things.  But, at the same time, I question, what more could I have done?  How much more do we look like, act like, live like Jesus than we did before I was here (not that I am the end all).  

That leaves me here:  Since I can't change the past, what am I going to do from here.  What is my roll in pushing South to become a body of people who love God in a passionate way that we seek out what it is God is calling us to be (like Jesus) and then do it.  What is my roll in helping people encounter that calling, process it, and live it out?  

From there, the question becomes, how do I do that?

This is where my brain is at.  This is what I think about when I drive down the street and see all the people between my house and the church that I serve.  I covet your thoughts and ideas.

My prayer is that God would give me eyes to see, ears to hear, and the moxie to do something for His glory and His Kingdom.

October 6, 2010

Drink Coffee. Do Good.

Having coffee with Chad Cronin at this coffee shop today.  Its a great little shop that has the feeling of the old Hill of Beans from back in my early GLCC years.  Wicker tables and chairs, little nooks in crannies in the house, and, most importantly, good coffee.

Plus, they are doing coffee right, in that they are doing fair trade coffee a step further, by working directly with a grower in Rwanda to make sure that the small growers are getting the money they deserve for their products.  My friend, Cassidy, did some work in this vein when he shot video for the Bicycles for Rwanda project.

What do you need to do?  Drink coffee responsibly.  Make sure it is fair trade--meaning the growers are getting treated fairly in the process.  Also, make sure you are getting coffee from places who use, not abuse those they get their coffee from.  You can certainly buy coffee from places like Land of a Thousand Hills and know that you are being a good steward with your cup of joe.

September 28, 2010

Like Jesus

If you've come here from there, here is where I really want you to go.  If you haven't come here from there, just ignore this post and go about your business.

August 19, 2010

Every Dad's Purpose

This comic today on Calvin and Hobbes made me remember another part of my childhood.  Each night at the dinner table, it was not uncommon for my dad to harass us kids by saying something like, "How do you like the rabbit in the soup we are eating?" Sometimes we were gullible, sometimes we could see through his antics.  It always made things interesting and fun.

My daughter says that Grandpa Jr. is a tease-y guy.  And he is.  It what makes him who he is.  And, I proudly carry that trait forward!


Do you ever have moments in your life where you are doing something and you realize that you have become your parents incarnate?  The horror of who you have become rushes over you at that moment, and rewrites reality.  I had one of those moments recently.

When I was young, workouts and gyms were really for those trying to become Arnold (I'll be back!), or those who had lots of $$.  My family fit neither of these categories.  It wasn't in our culture.  The closest thing to workouts at that time for me was playing basketball in 7th through 9th grade and knowing that my cousin, Cathy, was a jazzercise instructor.  Come to think of it, she was really the only one in our family who was really nutty about working out and eating healthy.  But that's not the point of this post.

The point of this post is this - when I was young, I used to think that my parents ran funny.  I remember running around acting like an Olympic champion or playing football thinking I would one day become a star.  Running felt natural.  It felt like I was doing it right.  You know how that goes, in your head you do something and it feels like you are doing it exactly like the pros do.  As you see yourself do it in your mind, you look just like the pros!  This is at least how my brain interprets/compares what am physically doing to the rest of the world.

With that as the backdrop of my young, preteen mind, I remember watching my parents run and thinking, "Wow!  They run funny."  Not funny, ha ha, but funny in a weird sort of way, like they've never watched someone run before and their brains don't know what it is supposed to look or feel like.  They ran like they were old.

If you were to come to the church and watch me walk/run, I think you would have the same thoughts that I did as a little child as you watched me go round and round in the sanctinasium.  He runs like he is old, like he has never ran before.  

I have become my parents yet again.  However, someday soon I'll be running like an Olympic star.

August 11, 2010

Pain and Agony

I've always liked food.  You can look at me and say, "that boy likes to eat!"  I'm ok with that.  I blame it on my mom and my grandma.  My house was a "clean plate" house.  If it was on the table to eat, some went on your plate, and you had to eat it.  Nothing got left.  That's where it all began.  

My grandma's involvement comes in with weekly trips to McDonalds.  Gram didn't drive.  So, naturally, my mom and us kids would take her out each week to the grocery store, mall, or wherever she needed to go.  In the process of those excursions, we would hit McDonalds.  I remember one trip in particular.  I was probably 12 or 13 at the time.  As we were ordering I remember Gram saying, "don't you need another sandwich--you are a growing boy!"  It was all downhill from there.  She gave me the "excuse" to double order.  I've been living that life ever since.

Unfortunately, my love for food has been transferred on to my wife and daughter.  You ask us what is good anywhere we've been and we can tell you where to eat.  Grand Rapids?  Arnies on 28th Street.  Chicago?  Giordanos.  Williamsburg, VA?  Chik-fil-a or Che Burger Che Burger.  We are a sad, sad family.

Recently, it has seemed like I can't stop shoving anything and everything down my throat.  I've become very conscious of it.  It has made me loath myself a little...yet I haven't been able to keep my mouth shut.  Shocker.  It prompted me to get on the scale the other day at home.  I don't normally do for two reasons.  One, the scale at home only registers to 270.  So, since I'm above that, it is really just a guesstimation of my weight.  Two, I don't want to know.  If I don't know, I don't have to think about it.  Right?

Needless to say, I got on the scale at home and greatly exceeded the limits of the scale.  What I guesstimated really freaked me out a little.  When I went to the office I visited the doctor's scale that our First Place ministry has.  While I was pleasantly surprised that my actual weight was lower than my guesstimation, I was still heavy. . .very heavy.  If my weight were a batting average, I'd be doing good.

That was Monday.  I was angry Monday.  I was frustrated with myself Monday.  So, I dealt with it.  I had some pulled pork from Backyard Barbecue.  It was stellar!  Monday was not a good day.

Yesterday morning, I woke up thinking that Hannah was crying.  I peeked into her room, saw she was fine and then mentally debated whether I was going to go back to bed or just head to the office.  Instantly, my mind remembered the day before and I had the thought, "you should exercise!?"  I had flashbacks of my run in with the treadmill.  But, then I thought about how unhappy I was with myself the day before.  I grabbed some clothes and headed to the office.

Now, I'm not going to share the gory details of my exercise.  It wasn't pretty.  It involved walking and running round and round and round our sanctinasium at church.  It was way early in the day so no one had to witness it, thank God!  I almost died at least 3 times in the walking and running.  But, as I got close to the end, I began to feel good and loose.  It was something I didn't expect.  It was a good feeling. . . but it didn't last long.

Afterwords, I sat down at my desk and began working.  I didn't move from my chair for a few hours.  I was in the zone, so to speak . . . and I had already made coffee, so it was an easy chair roll to the right to refill my cup!  However, when I went to get up to go to the copier or talk to Melissa, our office assistant, I was greeted with major muscle pain in my legs.  I almost couldn't get out of my chair.  Stupid exercise.

So, if you were to see me today, you would see me get up from where I am sitting and walk like a 90 year old (no offense to 90 year olds) for about the first four or five steps until the pain and agony fades from wicked horrible to somewhat horrible.  Hopefully, you won't see me.  But if you do, please suppress the urge to laugh out loud at least for 10 or 20 seconds, until I get moving almost like normal.  I would greatly appreciate it.

And, pray for my soul tomorrow as I take on round number two of the walking and running round and round and round the sanctinasium at church.  I'm sure I'll be yelling at God as I run for making food so good.

August 10, 2010


It is an early morning for me.  I woke up at 5:18am when I thought I heard Hannah crying.  After peaking in her room and realizing she was ok, I decided to not go back to bed.  At this point, I don't know if that was a good idea or not.  We'll see how the day wears on.
One of the things I have already done this morning is read.  I do my best to read every day.  Some days I do great at it.  Some days I completely fail.  In the last few months, its really been a struggle for me to make time.  This is the story of my life.  I've wanted to figure out how to make time for it again in my day and have discipline to actually do it.  Motivated by my friend's goal this month to read through the New Testament, I decided to take on the same challenge. 

I've run into a problem, though.  Well.  Lets be honest, I've run into two problems.  The first problem is my lack of discipline.  Today, being August 10th, I'm supposed to be reading Luke 19-24.  I'm still in Matthew 9.  I think I might have read three times since the start of the month.  Yeah, I know.  That's 30%.  Too bad bible reading isn't baseball.  I'd be stellar!

 The second problem is that when I actually make time to read, I get bogged down in the text.  I guess this is an ok problem to have because what I'm reading sucks me in.  But, for speeding through the NT, it hinders the journey.  Today is a prime example. 

In Matthew 9 there are three healings strung in a row.  The first happens when the leader of a synagogue comes to Jesus and asks him to raise his daughter from the dead.  Wrap your mind around that for a moment.  A synagogue leader asks Jesus to raise his daughter from the dead.  The Pharisees and the Jews are continually questioning Jesus' ability to do such things, calling him more often than not, a spawn of Satan.  Yet, here is a leader in the church, coming to Jesus with the faith that he can raise his daughter.  Somehow, some way, Jesus has caught his attention and he's willing to take the risk of asking Jesus to heal her, which means he is standing against everything the Pharisees think and say of Jesus. 

As Jesus is on his way to encounter her, he is interrupted by a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years.  She wants to sneak close to Jesus, touch the hem of his cloak, and make an unnoticed getaway.  That doesn't happen.  Jesus acknowledges her faith.  In other gospels, it seems that he makes a scene about it by calling her out of her anonymity.  Even more, she's been bleeding for 12 years.  She's been unclean for 12 years.  In her touching Jesus, she risks making him unclean by "Law" standards.  I would guess that's why she's willing to do the covert touching to get healed.  In the end, she gets what she needs. 

The final part of the story is Jesus healing some blind guys and a demon possessed man who really had nothing to lose.  The blind guys called out for healing using the phrase, "son of David".  In doing so, they acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah.  And, the demon possessed guy probably doesn't have a clue of what is going on till after he is healed.  But, the people who bring him to Jesus believe and have faith . . . and trust that Jesus will be able to drive out the demon. 

What amazes me is the fact that each person in need of something they couldn't go and buy or get on their own were willing to take the risk and ask for help, no matter what the cost.  Their faith in Jesus overcame the risks.  Even more, it wasn't like they were asking for money or something physical that Jesus had.  They were asking for things that were extra ordinary--supernatural. 

As I read this passage this morning, I wondered what Matthew is doing stringing them together like he did.  Is there something between the lines in the order from the man with the most risk asking and leading all the way to the man who probably didn't know what was going on or the place he was in till Jesus healed him?  Is there more between the lines as each of the people asking for healing are outwardly acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah and that he is bearing the power of the kingdom of God? 

Even more, I think of the studies some of the people here at South and I have been doing on the Holy Spirit and its roll in helping God's kingdom break forth here on the earth.  Our conversations have centered around the fact that maybe we have diminished our view of the Holy Spirit and the role of the supernatural in and around our lives. 

People in the Bible aren't afraid to take risks.  They aren't afraid to argue with God.  They are not afraid to come face to face with Jesus and say, "come and raise my daughter back to life!"  I don't think we are that way.  I think we have incapacitated ourselves.  We only think we can do what physically control.  We can only give so much.  We can only do these things because that is what we are gifted at.  We cannot do those things because we don't have the money to do it. 

Now, hear what I'm not saying.  I'm not saying we could/should be walking through the hospital healing people or we should be going to wherever the demon possessed people are and casting out their demons.  Nor am I saying that I don't think God could move around or through us in that way. 

What I am saying is that if we don't think we can control it, if we don't have the money for it, or, if its out of our comfort zone, we won't do it.  We've lived this way for so long that we ourselves have become blind to what we could/can do.  To me and for me, it seems as though we are sitting at the feet of Jesus saying, "But we only have a little bread and a few fish.  We can't do that!" 

We need to get over our control issues.  We need to get over our trust issues.  We need to know/grasp/understand/get through our thick skulls that if and when we put stretch ourselves and take risks for God, he's going to show up and do great things.

God, open our eyes and ears.  Take away the fear.  Help us to be Your kingdom here on earth.

August 5, 2010

Mini Vacation

I did good for about what, a week?  I really do like to write down my thoughts and blog, even though this place doesn't really show it.  Maybe August will be different.  Time will certainly tell.  It always does.

I'm stealing my girls away today and heading to the beach.  We may hit a zoo tomorrow.  It will be a good time away, even though I'm not a huge fan of the beach.  My girls love it though.  They will have a ball.  Hopefully the water will be warm enough to play in at Lake Michigan.  Its been hot enough, we should be good.

Keep strong in the faith today.  Be bold and love the way God loves us.  Be full of compassion and joy for yourself, your family, and those around you that you interact with.  Peace!

June 11, 2010

Amidst the Blue

At the moment I am parked at a table in a Panera Bread.  I've been here for some time now.  Its a place I like to come every once in awhile to get away from the office to write and think.  Today's task is writing quiet time guides for camp in two weeks.  Shockingly, they are not done yet.

There are two reasons why Panera is a great place to work.  One, the light roast coffee is spectacular.  It has good body without any acidity or burnt flavor--thus the reason its called light roast.  Its good stuff.  Two, there is an endless amount of coffee to be consumed for under $2 a cup.  It is glorious.

Unfortunately, there are a few problems with the Panera.  One, sometimes Paneras are connected to malls.  The one I'm in currently in is a part of the Lansing Mall.  Thus, every time I come here, the place is crawling with mall walkers.  If you are here way early, they are all sitting around, hovering over their coffee waiting for the mall police to allow them into the climate controlled strolling arena they love.  Or, more importantly, if you come late, they sit around after their aforementioned lapping in the climate controlled strolling arena enjoying bagels and more coffee.   Now, don't get me wrong.  I have nothing against mall walkers.  I think they are noble in wanting to get, be, or stay healthy.  Actually I admire them for their tenacity--a tenacity that I wish I had at the moment.  The problem comes into the need for Panera to cater to them musically.  The background music they play around here is atrocious.  That, combined with "retired" talk about GM, the president, and who knows what else forces me to dawn my earphones and drown it out.

Therein lies the real problem for me.  This morning I ventured into itunes and began drowning out the ambient noise in Panera with a little Mumford and Sons, a band that one of my friends recommended to me.  One would think this is a good thing. . . put on the earphones, turn up the tunes, and get on to what you are here to do which is ironically write quiet time guides.  Unfortunately for me, I have the attention span of a 2 year old.  I quickly found myself looking up lyrics to the songs I was listening to to get a better understanding for what the dudes are singing about.  From there I went back to itunes to look at what else they have recorded to see if there's something I'm missing.  That led me to looking up Seasick Steve.  Luckily, my coffee cup was empty and I needed to extricate myself from my earbuds to get another cup.

When I sat down, I realized I had lost too much time on the internet. . . which lead me to wishing the walkers weren't here so I could have some good background music and get something done. . . and then I had to blog about it.

I know, I should take a break, get off my duff, and go walk with the walkers.  My body probably would appreciate it.  But alas, the quiet time guides awake.  Time to find some better music to listen to . . .

June 10, 2010

The Crystal Anniversary

As I have stated earlier on this blog, Steph and I grew up together at the same church where her family and my family met.  We really didn't meet.  We were just there in the nursery together, probably looking across the room from the cage like kid cubbyholes that were built into the wall (seriously, they were built into the wall with sliding bars on them just like you see at the animal shelter).
There's a lot of creepy, yet not creepy things like that about us.  She's the baby of her family. I'm the baby of my family.  Her dad worked for Diebold, Inc.  My dad worked at Diebold, Inc.  Her mom was a stay at home mom.  My mom was a stay at home mom.  She has two older siblings.  I have two older siblings.  She's beautiful.  I'm beautiful!

In my life, Stephanie Jo Kuhl has always been there.  My earliest memories of her are from the 4s and 5s class we used to go to.  I remember sitting around a funky shaped table with her and some of the other kids in the class.  A little later on, I remember being in a Palm Sunday play with her.  I don't remember anything of the play, who was who, and so on, but I remember sitting at this table with her and her cousin, who was also in the play.

One of my my most vivid memories of her in those pre-teen years is from a sledding night our church had at my Aunt's house.  My aunt had a great sledding hill.  When we would get enough snow to cover the corn stalks, we would toboggan down it.  It took a little skill to maneuver the hill, but my big brother was an expert at making the turn.  By turn, I mean the 40 degree left turn you needed to make about 3/4 of the way down the hill.  If you didn't, you were in trouble because you were bound to encounter a barbed wire fence.  Steph's brothers didn't know of this turning need.  They piled on a toboggan and took off down the hill.  Stephanie was unscathed, though shaken.  Her brothers were bloodied a little, but they lived to sled again!

If I remember correctly, I think Steph rode with me down the hill once that night.  I was probably giddy about it because she was a girl and I was a boy.  That's what boys do when girls ride on sleds with them.  I probably also remember this because I'm sure my big brother gave me crap about riding on a sled with her later, though I've blocked that from my memory.

Yet, in all of these memories, there was never anything remotely romantic for us outside of the sled moment we had until after we graduated high school.  Only then, did we begin dating.  On our first date I took her to see the movie, Juice.  It was her choice.  We went to McDonalds after the movie and I had her home by 9:30pm.  I was such a loser then.

Needless to say, I've known this girl all my life.  She's grown on me over the years.  We've traversed from the icky girl/boy stage to the "how you doing" stage all the way to the whatever stage it is we are in now.  Its been quite the journey.  She knows my secrets.  I know hers.  We are one.  And all of that is why I am rejoicing today.  Because, 15 years ago, Stephanie Jo Kuhl became my bride.  For some crazy reason, in all of the creepy above, she wanted to bind herself to me.  And I am thankful for it!

Babydoll, its been 15 years of love.  You were beautiful on that day you became mine.  You are even more beautiful now because I've had 15 more years to fall even farther in love with you.  I pray that my love for you brings you joy, hope, and peace!

June 4, 2010

I'm Still Here

I'm still here.  I've been busy.  Camp is only 15 days away.  15 days . . .wow.  Its going to be a long 15 days.  If I could just quit messing around on the internet and get to the sermon I'm doing this Sunday, then I could focus on the stuff I have to do for camp.  

Blogging probably doesn't help the "quit messing around on the internet" need.  Oh well.  I felt as though all 4 of you needed to hear from me.  So, here I am.  I hope you are doing well.

May 3, 2010

Sitting Outside

Right now I'm sitting outside in my driveway.  Hannah was riding her bike awhile ago and I came out to watch.  Her and Steph went for a walk while I sat here enjoying the birds and the breeze and worked on a few things on my computer.  I'm going to have to go in soon, though . . . its almost bedtime.

I must admit, I really love fall and winter.  In my opinion, you can't go wrong in either of those seasons, no matter how cold and snowy it gets.  However, early spring is also very enjoyable, especially when its like today.  Its nice enough to come outside and enjoy the sounds and the feel of spring.  And, its early enough that the mosquitoes have not emerged.  Once it warms up a little they get unbearable around my house, especially in the evening.

I hope and pray that you get time in the next couple of days to enjoy the spring--the smell of spring in the air, the look of the tulips and other budding flowers, the new feeling of the cold on your feet as you venture out once again without socks on, and the sounds of the birds and some occasional rain falling from the sky.  And, don't forget the taste of soft serve ice cream or, if you are lucky, some fresh strawberries.  

Go on, get out there right now, before it turns hot and yucky.

April 28, 2010

Awesome God and Guttural Sounds

Music in the life of my family has been a common thing.  Growing up, there was always music and musical instruments around me.  If it wasn't the radio blaring WHBC in the mornings when we were getting ready for school, it was my dad playing his guitar or his keyboards every night after a day in the factory.  Or, at the most in opportune times when I wanted to watch TV, my sister would be practicing for her piano lessons.  It all came naturally in my family passed from my father to my siblings and me. 

Music was also common in Steph's family.  Marching band music and a love for the radio and records were passed along to her from her parents and older brothers.  Her dad sang (and still sings) in the church choir - he and I sat nest togethe.  The music around her blossomed into a passion for music.  One example could be the hours upon hours she spent sitting and listening to her boom box trying to catch and record the latest chart topping hit.  (If you don't believe me, we still have the tapes around here to prove it, all neatly labeled in a box in the basement.)

Thus, its not a surprise that Hannah Grace is musical.  She's grown up being around my worship ministry at South - dancing to the music of many a worship rehearsal and always wanting her turn to play my guitar when I have it out practicing.  At home it is no different.  There is always something playing in the cd player, on the Comcast digital music stations, or in the car radio.  If Taylor Swift or some other song that her and her momma likes comes on, she blitzes across the room to crank the volume.  Or, if by the off chance the house is void of music, you will probably find Hannah on the floor playing with her dolls or whatever, singing away, as if they've been caught up in the most dramatic six year old opera ever produced.  Its really a beautiful thing.

Music is even part of our routine.  I think I've written at least once on this blog about the songs her and I sing each night before she goes to bed.  Its something we've done since she was able to.  Its a joy, even when I can't trick her into letting me sing the last word of the ABC's like I used to. It helps her (and me) to settle down and easily go to sleep.  Its something that I will miss when she outgrows it.

This week has been a new day for Hannah and her love of music.  It started on Sunday.  In Kidz Worship they sang Awesome God by Rich Mullins.  She's been singing it on and off since then.  Its extremely cute and touching, especially since I have a huge love/appreciation for Rich Mullin's music.  Its allowed us to have some cool conversations about who God is and how big He is.    

As I type out this post, I can't help but think of my friend Adam.  Adam is into communication.  Well.  That's not true.  He's beyond being into communication.  He's like a kid who just got a new video game when it comes to communication.  He's obsessed.  When someone new is around us who doesn't know Adam, I like to have him explain why he is so into communication.  At that moment, his eyes light up and twinkle and he gets a giddy smile on his face as he shares about the fascination he has of how people are able to make guttural sounds with their vocal chords and combine them with body language, emotion, and so on to converse and what not.  (I'm sure that is not as eloquent as Adam would have put it - that's why he's the communications guy and I play a guitar)  As he talks, his whole person glows with wonder.

As I sit here and write about how music has been a part of my life and how my daughter is learning to love it as I have loved it, I can't help but marvel at what music is and how it affects us.  Physical disturbances in the air, like the guttural sounds of our voices, become something more than just noise.  Music gives us hope.  It calms us at times.  It brings us joy.  It allows us to express our emotion whether we are musical or not.  It stirs memories of the past and of relationships/friendships that we have had.  It gives us an avenue of worship and praise from us to our God and allows us to share that awe with others.  It helps me to calm my daughter for sleep and talk with her about God.  It helps me better share with my wife how wide and deep my love for her is.  It helps me know who I am not, who I am, and who I need to be.

April 21, 2010

A New Look

Well.  I used to use Haloscan for my comments.  The other day when I posted And Then There Were Three I noticed that Haloscan had been purchased by another company and were not handling my comments the way I wanted because I need total control.  Thus, I needed a change.

If you know me, change is sometimes difficult.  When I started my blog way back in 2004, I searched forever to find my old template and edit it.  It was one of the things that got me started in dabbling in web design.  it took me at least a month of learning code and so on to get everything just the way I wanted it, yet another one of my issues.

So, off to Google to search for a new template.  Luckily, it really didn't take too long, since I found a blog template named Möbius - the name on my truck's personalized license plate - see here.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  I liked the template more than the other 5 or 6 I had downloaded today.  

So, here it is.  Hope you like it.  If you don't, it is not your blog.

April 19, 2010

And Then There Were Three

I should simply cancel this blog and give up. Its been almost 3 months since my last post. So much has happened since then. In that time I went from four followers to three. I've lost 25% of my constituency and readership. Those are horrible numbers. . . if you care about numbers. I don't. For the three of you that read this, thanks for reading.

I've started drinking soda again. I made it two months. Then, I realized I was being more vigilant about my beverage choices than I was about making time for Scripture. That wasn't right in my opinion, so I've tried to flip that. I've failed miserably in trying to read through the Gospels each week. The first week I made it to Matthew 16. The second week I made it all the way to Mark, by way of the NIV Audio Bible and a long trip. That's how its gone.

That seems to be how my life is lately. I have great intentions and an even greater inability to carry through on my intentions. I stare at an accomplish-able list of things I want/need to do and struggle to find the discipline and motivation to do it. This has happened to me before.

When I was in second grade, I spent a sizable part of one of the grading periods staring out the window in our classroom. I don't really remember what I was thinking. I simply remember staring out the window at the white house that was there. At the end grading period, I remember Mrs. Barkus talking to my mom and letting her know I hadn't been doing my work. Then she showed my mom the neatly stacked pile of uncompleted papers in my desk. That was not good for me. For the next few weeks, I would go home from school, have dinner, and then go to my room to do my homework, then bed.

I guess its time to send myself to my room for awhile.

January 25, 2010

A Coke and Smile

Well. I am three weeks into my own personal challenge of living like Jesus. I can't say that I've done that well. I'm trying to do things like read the gospels every week, not drink soda, eat better, and so on. I read to Matthew 17 the first week. The second week I made it to Mark 2, though that was only because I had a long trip one day and I listened to all of Matthew on the drive. Last week I didn't even hit the gospels.

I ate better for the first week. Steph and I watched how much we ate and we tried not to eat out all that often (which is really one of our bad habits). Since then, my eating has been very similar to before. I've probably not had seconds as much. But, that is probably the only bright spot in the last few weeks in regards to eating.

The one and only thing I have been able to keep up with is not drinking soda. Now, if you know me, the thing I like most besides coffee is a good soda. My fridge in the office used to be stocked with Diet Coke or on occasion some Ale 8 or Livewire. Since the beginning of January, the only thing in my fridge is coffee creamer and yogurt. Dismal, I know.

The first week of this thing, I decided to drink more water. And, I actually did. I even think the first two days I drank 64 ounces of water throughout the day. I didn't really notice much difference, other than more need to use the restroom. I didn't feel any better or worse, not that I was expecting a huge change in the way I feel.

Then, we started going out to eat more. I would get lemonade or iced tea in those instances, if I didn't have water. I learned two things. One, lemonade is a decent replacement for soda. Two, iced tea is a gamble. Sometimes its good. Sometimes its just okay. Sometimes it tastes like its a week old. That's not good. Even with these challenges, not having soda has not been as difficult as I expected it to be.

That's not to say, however, that I've not been tempted. A recent trip to B-Dubs was painful. Lemonade, water, or iced tea just doesn't go with hot barbeque and Caribbian Jerk wings. Last week at the office, Caleb (Frank's son) gave me a can of Throwback Mt Dew. It is probably in the top three of my favorite sodas. I kindly took the can and gave it away. On, Saturday, the Lowman family had a nice, hot pepperoni and extra cheese pizza from Pizza Hut. A Coke would have tasted incredible with it. Heck, even a Pepsi would have tasted okay. But alas, I had Gatorade. It was adequate and the pizza tasted great. But it just wasn't right.

The biggest temptation has been on my unfortunate, yet frequent trips to Menards and Lowes. For the last year and a half I have been remodeling our house. It always seems that every time I go to do something I need some extra supply that I don't have. So, naturally, it means a trip to the home store. This requires a travel beverage. One of these delectables can be acquired from the Speedway soda fountain in 32 and 44 ounce varieties or purchased in lovely plastic bottles in the checkout line at the home store. If Hannah was with me, it was always Speedway since the girl has grown an early appreciation for a frozen soda, aka the slurpee.

Last night was extra bad. I ran into some drywall issues and needed a new piece for around a new door in the family room, which itself was an issue. By the time I admitted that I needed to change out some drywall, my frustration level was pretty high. As I got in the truck to run to the home store yet again, I could feel an overwhelming pull in my soul for a soda. It would have calmed me down. It would have soothed my frustration and made the 10 minute drive to Lowes more tolerable. I could have made it happen too. I actually have cash in my wallet for some reason--something I try not to do. I could have easily slipped into Speedway or the McDonalds drive thru for a frosty, ice cold Coke, with lots of ice and a nice straw to slurp it up with. Seeing that its been three weeks since I've had one of those, I certainly would have disposed of it quickly enough to throw away the cup when I arrived at Lowes. No one would know except me. It could be my little secret. . .

How is it that something so simple, like a beverage, can control my mind the way that it does, even though I've been away from it for three weeks? Why does it feel like my bones are longing for soda? Is it a deep down emotional need? Or, is it because of the years and years of hearing and seeking "coke and a smile" commercials? Or, the even greater question. . . how am I going to make it a whole year? I'm already having conversations in my head and with my wife like, "Root Beer isn't soda, it's root beer, right?" "Or, a slurpee isn't soda, especially the flavored ones like the orange cream that Speedway used to have, right?"

An orange cream slurpee from Speedway would be heavenly right now--a big 44 ounce one in a Styrofoam cup with two straws so I could get more of it into my system with each slurp. . .

Last night I drove to Lowes, got what I needed, and returned home thirsty. It was a good feeling to not give in. Its really the only thing I've had discipline with in this Jesus journey that I'm trying to take this year. My prayer is that overcoming the need for a stupid drink will help to grow my discipline and actually make it through the gospels in a week or that I might actually exercise. We'll see how this week goes.

So, when you have a Coke and a smile this week, think of me and pray for my soul.

January 18, 2010

Turning 6

Where has the time gone? It seems like only yesterday Stephanie and I brought Hannah home from the hospital. I distinctly remember that night. It was a cold night with temperatures in the single digits. The nurse at the hospital helped us bundle Hannah extra well in her car seat. Steph sat in the back seat to make sure everything was ok on the way home. When we arrived home, we carried Hannah in and put her in the middle of the floor. I remember standing behind Steph as she sat on the floor in front of Hannah, who was still in her car seat. We had a rush of many emotions right then. Amazement, fear, hope, and hopelessness all came at once. It was rather overwhelming. Luckily, Steph's parents pulled in the drive about two seconds later. I escaped to my office at the church for awhile to gather myself, journal, and so on.

From then on, life has been different. It took us time to adjust. We had to learn new routines. We had to learn how to interpret the signals she was giving--whether she was hungry, smelly, gassy (she is my child), and so on. We learned. We failed some. We learned some more. Then, when we thought we had a good portion of it figured out, she started crawling. Which, then called for more learning and baby-proofing. We quickly realized that even though we were the parents, we were going to be shaped with the new life that Hannah was, just as much as she would be shaped by us.

Today my little precious girl turned six. As I sit here and try to think of all the things we've done together and all the firsts she has had over the last six years, I struggle to grasp how so much time has passed so quickly. It seems like yesterday she was calling a spoon a samoo. Now she pronounces spoon correctly, lacing it with an annoyed tone when you say samoo. Back then she would take naps and cuddle for hours. Now, the child is in constant motion taking in all that is around her with every bit of energy she has.

Lord, thank you for the last six years of life that Steph and I have had with Hannah Grace. We have enjoyed every moment of it. I look forward to the many more years you will hopefully give us. May you continue to teach me about me and, more importantly, about how much you love us as your little children. May I be able to share that love with my little girl.

January 16, 2010


For all 4 or 5 of you that read this page. South Lansing Christian Church is physically getting involved in helping with what has happened in Haiti. You can find out all the info here. If you can help, we would greatly appreciate it. I think it would be an amazing thing if we could fill a shipping container in a day or two and need to get another one. What a testament of our faith and hope that would be!

I spent a couple weeks in Haiti back in 2003. It was an amazing experience. The people there live on very little. They make do with what they have. One of our responsibilities while we were there was helping to dig a foundation for a new building. Now, one would think, that could be fun, especially if you get to run the backhoe. Unfortunately, there were no mechanical or powered machines involved. Just men and women using picks, shovels, and wheelbarrows. The shaping thing for me during that project was the fact that us blancs (white people) could only work 1/2 hour shifts or more at a time before the heat and the physical labor made us stop and take a break. All the while, the Haitian men who we were working beside kept swinging, digging, and moving. Even more, they sang songs, smiled, and enjoyed the work because they were doing something good--and they had work to do.

I cannot even begin to imagine what the Haitian people are going through right now. Selfishly, I don't ever want to experience it. As I looked at the pictures on Boston Globe's Big Picture my heart grows heavy my mind begins to wonder how I would respond if something like that happened here and I were to lose Stephanie or Hannah. And then I get disgusted at myself because here I sit, in a Panera Bread drinking coffee worrying about how I would feel if I ever had to feel this loss, rather than praying and hurting for the hundreds of thousands of people who were specifically affected by the earthquake.

Lord, help me to lose myself so that you can be glorified through my actions. Help my thoughts, prayers, and actions be directed to helping others experience, understand, and know what the Kingdom of God feels like. May we as a church be your body physically in the next week. Help us to pray, give, pack, and be a blessing.

January 6, 2010

Quotes From Dobson. . . .

Ok. I mentioned these quotes in my last post. I'm finally getting back to Dobson's book to look for them. (plus, I needed a post since Frankly has 3 already - not that blogging is a contest).

The first quote of Dobson's book that challenges me comes from a rabbi that one of his sons studied with and is on the first page. "If you're a Christian and aren't reading through the Gospels every week, then you're not a very good Christian. How can you claim to take Jesus' teachings seriously when you spend so little time actually reading them?" The rabbi hit a nerve with Dobson. It does with me too. I've tried many times to read through the Bible every year. I get a good start every January, but then "get too busy". This year is going to be different. I'm going to do everything I can to listen or read through the gospels every week. I'm already failing miserably this week, but there are still a few days left. This may mutate into a gospel a week/all the gospels in a month goal for me.

The second quote has still not been found. I've been through almost 80 pages and not found it. Its rather frustrating. But, alas. I guess I need to read through the book again. I'm writing down some of the prayers that Dobson uses throughout his year long journey. Two that are really grabbing me right now are the Orthodox Jesus Prayer, "Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." It is repeated for each knot in an Orthodox Prayer Rope, which has 33, 50, or 100 knots in it, depending on which length rope you have. It really helps me control my mind and focus back towards God, especially when my mind decides to go the opposite way.

Another resource Dobson came across in his journey is the Amidah--a set of blessings that are a part of the Jewish prayer life. I need to do more reading on how they are used individually and communally in the life of Israel. But, from my first look at the blessings, they seem like they will be helpful to pray through. (if you want more info, or to see them, you can go here)

I guess that is all for now. Maybe the next time I blog I'll have the other quote and a specific list of what I'm actually doing this year as I try to live more like Jesus.