Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Praise Habit"- David Crowder, my notes

     At long last I am using this site for another of its intended purposes!  A book review.  Well, actually it's going to be more of my thoughts as I was reading it, important notes I took, etc.  As I am getting older, I am finding that my retention when I am going through several things at once is not what it used to be.  So this is a way for me to focus for a few minutes and put pen to paper so I can go back later and get the gist of it.  And here is the first; "Praise Habit" by David Crowder.
     First off, some background.  This book was nowhere near my radar.  I don't think that I had even heard of it.  In fact, back when my friend Evan McElrath was reading one of David's other books, I did not get a resounding approval of it (although he did enjoy the book, I didn't know how much he did until later).  So when he offered me up this one, it came as a bit of a surprise.  But it looked short, and I do like the band's music, so I figured I'd give it a shot.
    I am sure glad I did.  In reading it, I discovered a new appreciation for the psalms, a new appreciation for this life God has blessed me with, and a perspective that I am trying to apply to my life.   And as you can probably guess from the title, it is all about praise.  Recognizing the rescue and salvation we live within because of Christ, and letting our thankfulness and devotion spill out into everything we do.  Finding praise in small and big, in dark and light, in hope and despair.  And letting that praise define us.
    Crowder takes the reader through all of this in a commentary, if you will, of 21 of the Psalms.  There is, of course, the intro section where we come to understand his point of view.  Then he jumps right in.  And between his anecdotes, his wit, and his style, he shows the reader how each of them exemplifies a habit of praise.
    I am not going to go step by step through the book (that would give away spoilers:-)), but I will recommend this book whole-heartedly.  It has certainly made me concentrate more on finding the praise in every situation, and then splashing my extra (my cup overflows, remember) onto those around me.  And it is definitely a book that I would read again (I almost did just writing this review). 
     Thanks David, for this insightful book.  And thanks to God and Christ for my salvation!
Here are a few of the more significant passages that I really liked:

"Here [in Scripture] are the stories of our running and His running after."
"What we praise signifies our treasure."
"Sometimes praise comes face to the ground, unable to move because we are so aware that this holy, terrifying God has busied Himself bringing us back to Him."
"What is this praise He is after? It is Praise Living.  It is GOD leaning in and shouting "I am the center!" and the sum of our lives nodding back in agreement.  It is the core of our hearts echoing this statement."
"When we are fully aware of rescue, it should also cause us to bring an offering of our best, with the knowledge that we can not respond in equal measure to God's actions but with all that we have available to express our gratefulness for such deliverance."
"We have not been promised palatial housing, but we have been promised His presence."
"We regularly learn and discern that there in the darkness-- more than anywhere else-- newness that is not of our making breaks upon us and we are surely then drowned in Him.  Psalm 88 shows us what the cross is about: faithfulness in scenes of complete abandonment."
"If you put life together in any way that doesn't include Yahweh Caps Lock GOD... it is not life."

See, I did just read a bunch of it again.  Great book!  Thanks Evan!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Growing up and letting go...

     It has been a very tumultuous time around the Haley household for the past several weeks, to say the least.  Since Labor day or so, things have just been crazy.  Not uncontrollably crazy, but crazy in that there is always something going on.  We have work, school for the high schoolers, night school for Christine, drill team for Heather, HSM, adult small groups, various service projects, church, and getting everything ready for Zach's trip to Scotland, just to name a few of the things that have pulled at us.
    And now we are in one of the most complicated weeks yet as Zach, Eric, and Evan are in the final few days before their trip.  Set in among the "normal" activities, we have to do some last minute clothes shopping, be sure that his finances are in order, go to the good-bye party, and see them off.  And yet, in the midst of all of this commotion, I am finding that I have been more reflective than I have been in a long time.  This opportunity for Zach is unparalleled, and we are so excited to see what God will do through and with him, but at the same time there is alot more at stake, too.  This is his first long-term outing as an adult, and there is a chance this week is the last time he calls our house his home except for between semesters.  He has grown up.
     I have spent alot of time thinking about Steven, too.  It seems that prayers are being answered, and things are moving in a positive direction.  We are excited to see what God has in store for him, too.  Yet, as he is approaching adulthood right behind Zach, I find that I am constantly questioning myself.  Did I do everything I could?  Are his foundations sound?  And worst of all, the realization that we are beyond all that.  There is no going back.  No way to redo it if I did something wrong.
     Then, the other day I was watching our three-year old playing.  He has taken a liking to the movie "How to Train Your Dragon." Excellent movie, by the way.  If you get a chance, check it out.  Anyway, I was watching him as he talked to his imaginary pet dragon.  He brings it along everywhere, and it is very cute watching his imagination flourish as he goes on adventures with it.  And as I was sitting there, praising God that He put me in this moment, another thought jumped in to stop that worship.  It said "you will never have another moment just like this," and that sobered me up quite a bit.       
       Three separate instances when praise was interrupted by foreboding.  When shouts of gladness were turned to murmurs.  When causes for worship were deformed into apprehension.
      When I was thinking these things, my first reaction was sadness.  I looked out to my future, and saw that at some point all of the kids are going to become adults.  That we will have less and less a part in their lives (as it should be), and I will be left with only memories of them. 
     But then another thought struck me.  "Why?"  Why am I sad?  I have been tasked by God to bring up these children, so why are examples of their growth a cause for sadness?  In all other aspects of life, when a project reaches completion it is cause for celebration.  The only answer I can come up with is fear.  I am afraid for the future, for what is in store for them, what is in store for me. 
     God didn't create fear.  In fact, the first time fear is mentioned is not until after man had been separated from Him by sin.  Rather, the serpent first put fear into our hearts when he caused us to turn our focus away from pleasing God and start worrying about ourselves.  When we worry about OUR smallness, about what WE are missing, then OUR world becomes THE world, and we are afraid because deep inside we know we can't control it all, we can't do it on our own.
     Satan is a funny guy that way.  He introduced us to sin with the allure that when we choose based on our own selfishness, we will be better off.  That sin only lead to death and separation from God.  Then, with death now imminent, he thrives off of our fear of that death, hoping that we slip more and more into self-focused despair, and, more importantly, away from God.  He coaxes us off the path, then laughs as we get more and more lost.
     So how to cure the fear?  Simply stated, I just have to renew my focus.  God is doing incredible things here, and what I am seeing is only the tip of the iceberg.  It is like a small island that is the peak of an underwater mountain.  And while I may not understand it on my own, when I am content to relish in praise of Him for what He has provided now, and let Him take care of what comes next, my fears can be relieved.
     Father, help me to be content.  Your Word promises that I do not have to worry about what is coming, and I know You hold everything in your hands.  Help me to resist the temptation to focus on my worries as if I could take care of them better than You.  Help me to recognize fear and apprehension for my future as a lure to take my eyes off of You.  And most of all, help me to stay focused on You and to live with your Son as my example.  Amen
But I still hope there is TIVO in heaven.  Matt was so cute the other day....:-)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It's been a while...

OK, so I know that it has been a while since I posted anything.  I have a few ideas in the works, and I am definitely going to have a book commentary started in the next few days.  I just haven't had time to be on the computer in the past couple of weeks.

But I promise I have not forgotten about the blog...

Monday, September 20, 2010

HSM Year 2-- The Beginning

    So now we are about 2 weeks into our "normal" HSM small groups.  We had our start-up party two weeks ago, and our first official meeting last week.  In our group this year: L.J., Andrew, Ray, Emerson, Jeff (the returning students), and Daniel, who we have gotten to know over the summer.  We are really excited about the opportunities and possibilities for these guys this year.
    As many of you know, the high schoolers are going through the New Testament this year.  The effort is to read the whole New Testament, because many of them simply have never taken the time to read God's Word.  So I have started posting a daily dose of reading on facebook for them every day with a pace set so that they will finish.  Can't wait to see what kinds of questions they come up with.  And they are reading the Message Bible, so there are bound to be some funny quotes in there.
   As for service, we are partnering with the Treasure Box, an organization that provides prepackaged meals to our community.  For $30, you can get enough food to feed a family of four for a week, or a single person for a month!  We will be helping on distribution day.  But our big project with them involves their annual Holiday meal box.  For $35, a family will get a whole turkey, veggies, sweet potatoes, pasta, and a pie.  We are trying to get 50 of these Holiday boxes donated, so that they can be distributed to families in our neighborhood who would otherwise not be having a meal for the holidays.  Our official kickoff was yesterday, and our fundraising goes through November 7. If you would like more info, you can go to and look under "holiday box."  Or you can find one of us at church.
    We have also already developed a web page.  It is still in its infancy, but we are calling it Zombies With Jesus.  I am going to explain our name in the "About" section soon, but it will be a cool funnel for all of the activities we are going to try and do this year.
    And as for activities, we are still coming up with some solid ideas, but our first is Sunday night, when we will be going as a group to Mosaic in LA to hear Erwin McManus speak.  Should be a fun night for all of us!
  That's about it for now.  As always, many thanks to my fearless co-leader Evan for putting up with random texts about ideas and such, and welcome to our temporary intern (gofer) Zach, who will be joining us until they leave for Scotland in October.
   See ya later, and as our tag line states "Get undead and Come Alive!!"

Friday, September 10, 2010

This Little Light of Mine....

    Darkness.  Despair.  Hopelessness.
    Until recently, these were words that had a vague meaning for me.  But to be quite honest, I had not truly experienced them.  Oh, I thought I had.  In my selfish world, when I was the center of my life, there were times when I thought that was where I was.  But since I have come back to Christ, and I have devoted my life to trying to live by His example, my perspective has changed.  When I thought I was in those places, experiencing those feelings, it was all based on my perspective, not God's. Now, I understand that what I can see is not the whole picture.  I realized how little I had actually suffered in my past, and how ridiculous it was to associate my life with such pessimism.  I had no concept of the depth that those words can go.
    These past few months, my eyes have been opened in wonderful (and scary) ways.  My first encounter with the true meaning of these words was in Arizona.  When we joined with 3:18 ministries for a week, doing God's work on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, I saw what darkness, despair, and hopelessness is.  Parks designed for fun that are ravaged by layers of graffiti.  Broken bottles that seem to cry out with the agony of the generations of teens who broke them, the glass shards so abundant and so thick on the ground-- no, IN the ground-- that it feels like darkness has taken root in the place.  Kids who know death so well that even the accidental death of a friend is met with a shrug and "oh well, that's how it goes."  Just--sadness.  It had a profound effect on me.  Broke my heart for them.  And left me overwhelmed.  This is a place where we can do our best to shine God's light (which we did), but it seems like we were just candles in a hurricane.
    Then, my lovely wife got into a geography class at LBCC.  But what she thought was going to be basic geography is actually cultural geography.  The second assignment focused on Eastern Europe and Russia.  And while she was reading about them-- highest murder rates in the world for "modern" nations, suicide rates that are the highest anywhere, alcoholism numbers that are astronomical-- that same feeling of being overwhelmed hit me again.  And don't even get me started on Africa, where they don't even keep records.
    And now she is doing an assignment on the ethnic strata right here in Long Beach.  Another shot to the system.  There is that same profile again, only in a much more condensed area, right in our own backyard.
    Such a sense of loss.  Darkness so deep that the people in it are numb to pain.  I can only imagine the tears that must flow when God looks down at these areas of the world.
    And yet, here we are, the family of God, clinging together like the army at the Alamo.  We come to church, and we take comfort in ourselves, in being together.  We build our defenses against the onslaught of the world.  We picture ourselves as a lighthouse, standing against the crashing waves, a beacon for those who are looking for rescue.
    If seeing these things and learning about them has taught me anything these past few months, it is that our view of the church may be a bit wrong.  I can't remember where I read it (if anyone reading this can help, thanks), but I read recently that the church should be more like a M.A.S.H. unit.  We should be here to encourage each other, but our main goal is to strengthen and then send each other out into the fight again.  At the time, I liked the concept.  Now I realize that the author may have hit the nail on the head.
    I'll take it a bit farther.  We see ourselves in the church as a lighthouse, but maybe we need to think smaller.  Instead of preventing a crash, maybe we should act as the rescue party.  You see, the world has already crashed.  There are places here that have been wrecked for so long that they have not seen God's light in years, decades, maybe ever.  The people there are surrounded in darkness, and they are so absorbed in that way of life that they don't see any other choice.  Just imagine how bright a candle, or a flashlight, would be for them.  Maybe we, every individual in Christ, are God's flashlights.  And imagine God's joy when he sees the bright centers of the world, His church, spreading out, even as tiny flickers, into the darkness, finding survivors to bring home!  Even better, imagine what He can do once His light has reached their eyes!
    It makes sense to me, and seems to be in line with His calling for us.  I just never realized how big of a task we have in front of us, and the depths of darkness that we can penetrate when we follow God's will.  And now that I have been awakened to what is out there, how can I go back to sleep?  I can't.  I can only devote myself to following Christ's example, and to being the best light I can be.
This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine
This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine
This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Arizona trip-- Looking back

    It has been a couple of weeks since we got back from Arizona, so I have had some time to reflect back on everything that happened, everything we experienced, and what I came away with.  Here are a few of my observations:

1) We had an incredible team.  14 people that were so diverse and unique, and we all got along.  There was little to no conflict, and we worked together so well every day to accomplish amazing tasks as work, and to be Jesus for those kids.  I am proud to have been a part of that team.

2) There is so much of society that flies under the radar.  We spent a week in a small part of the country that has been largely ignored, but in reality, we could have gone only ten minutes into the city and we would have also been in an area that is largely ignored.  I think I have realized that while I cannot spend several weeks doing mission work offsite, there is so much opportunity just within our community.  I have made it a goal that we are going to be doing much more service as part of our HSM small group.  In fact, I have already started moving in that direction.

3) I went there expecting to see miracles happen.  And in that, I was disappointed.  For you see, the miracle that happened was not external to us.  We didn't see God's hand moving.  Instead, we were being God's hand.  And it felt natural, easy.  When we are in line with God's will, it is like leaving the shore and just flowing down the river current.  If we just stop fighting it and relax, it can be quite a ride.  And I am sure that there are rapids and waterfalls and such, but wow!  What a ride that can be!
  Anyway, I learned what I think is the point:  we are supposed to be God's hand.  I mean sure, there are lots of times when we have to rely on God stepping in and working things beyond what we can do.  And we can't forget that it is all Him working through us.  But being God's hand, and being like Jesus to those around us, that is what we are supposed to do.
   We are God's children, after all.  And I think He may get more satisfaction from seeing His kids demonstrate what they have learned and loving like Him than when He has to do it all Himself.  As parents, don't we like that more?  Aren't we proud of the kids when they show what they can do with their learning?  My son just graduated from high school, and I can attest that I was super-proud that he did the work, even though I know I could have done that work, too.

4) I was just reading through my list of cool quotes and stuff that I have been collecting through the years, and I came across this one:--"It only takes a single point of light in a dark night sky to lead the lost wanderer back home."   It struck me that we were being single points of light in the midst of a dark night sky on the reservation.  And Kara and Tory of 3:18 Ministries are there as spotlights all of the time.  It really did seem like we were doing so little compared to what really needs to happen there.  But I know that God was using us, and I can only hope that we have helped lead some of the kids from the darkness.

That's it for the Arizona trip blogs.  Have a great night, and thanks for reading!

"If the Arizona trip were made into a movie, it would most definitely be a musical"-- Evan McElrath, Saturday Version

Day Six, Saturday--"Sing, Sing, Sing"- Chris Tomlin

     Phew-- the last day.

     This was to be the day when I just laid it all out there for the Lord to handle.

     Late on Friday night, I found a tire store near Phoenix (about 90 miles away) that had tires for the truck.  So we decided that I was going to pack all of the gear I could stow into the truck, then head out before breakfast down to Phoenix.  Hopefully the timing would work out and I could just join the van as it passed by later.
     And that is exactly what happened.  We got up and started packing the truck with our gear, and I helped clean up around the church for a while.  Then it was time to part ways.  We said a short prayer, and I headed out.
     You see, those 90 miles were through the mountains we had driven through on the way here, and there was little to no phone reception until the last 15 miles or so.  So if I ran into trouble along the way, it was going to be bad.  And with a donut spare and a tire with a large screw in it, there was nothing I could do except rely on God.  Oh yeah, did I tell you that I could actually hear the screw tapping the asphault as it hit on every turn of the tire?  The devil was still trying to make me despair, but at this point that was a feeble attempt.
   So I took a cue from the Israelites when God gave them Jericho.  I didn't try to fight, I just praised God for the miracle that He was going to perform for me.  I rolled my window down, turned up the music, and shouted praise to the Lord for the next hour and a half.  And it worked.  Faith does work.
    It was going to take about an hour for the tire replacement, so I waited with baited breath for the rest of the group to catch up.  According to the timetable, they should have caught up while I was still waiting.  But they never showed.  And I knew that there was no reception in the mountains, so I kept waiting.  And waiting.
    Right about the time I was ready to head back towards Globe to find the group, they texted that they were out of the mountains.  Turns out they had left a bunch of Tory's stuff in the van, and they had to turn around 1/2 an hour out of Globe to get it back to them.
    The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful.  Terry  rode with Zach, Evan, Kaitlin and I on the way to Blythe, and we had some awesome conversation playing 21 questions.  In Blythe, four of us acted like we were in a  car and tried to act our way through the drive-thru at Taco Bell.  It was a mediocre fail, but we had a great time acting out the parts.
   We made it home the rest of the way on a mix of Disney songs and Evan's ipod.  It made for a good soundtrack for the way home.
   When we got home, it was a pleasant surprise to see Christine and Matt waiting for us at the church.  I had really missed them, and wished more than anything that they could have experienced it with us.

    So today's lesson was faith.  Jesus said "ask as if you have already received," and that was what I had to do.  I was so thankful and full of praise, knowing that the Lord was going to take care of us.  And sure enough, He did.  Faith.  What more can I say?

"If the Arizona trip were made into a movie, it would most definitely be a musical"-- Evan McElrath, Friday Version

Day Five, Friday--"The Circle of Life"-- The Lion King
    Today's theme was a bit hard to come up with, because I really had a roller-coaster of a day.  But in the end, I remembered a quote from J.M. Strazinski (sp?) regarding an episode of Babylon 5 when one of the main characters had a day that went from good to bad.  He said "The wheel turns, and if you forget that it eventually turns on you, you'll be ground beneath it."  When I think back on today's events, I can only come to the conclusion that there was some real spiritual warfare going on that day.  Read on, and you'll see what I mean.

   The day started out innocently enough.  We were all to be working at the fitness center today.  Some of us were to be working outside finishing the last 20 feet or so of the wall, while the remainder were inside painting bathrooms and putting a cool stripe in the aerobics area.  We loaded up as we had every day this week after breakfast, and started on our way.  It was a good 25 minute ride into the reservation to get to the fitness center.
    I had Evan, Casey, Kaitlin, and Courtney with me in the truck.  We were the last car in the caravan, just standard operating procedure.  Listening to music, talking back and forth.  Suddenly, the tire alarm went off in the truck just as I felt a slight pull on the wheel.  Sure enough, we were driving at 60 mph with a flat front tire.     I was able to pull over, and Evan and I quickly got to work changing the tire.  The hardest part, believe it or not, was figuring out how to get the spare down from its cavity under the truck.  We turned Casey onto the manual, and quickly had it out.
   The biggest problem, as it had been all week, was the heat.  We left the car running so the A/C would stay on, but the engine heat was venting right into us as we changed the tire.  But we still managed to turn it into a half-way learning experience for those who did not know how to change a tire.
   We were back on the road in about twenty minutes (it may have been less, but we definitely were NOT the Duke brothers) and we took a shortcut to the fitness center, where the rest of the group was waiting for us.
   Of course, Rachel's sense of humor was in fine form today.  She had already assigned the project teams, and wouldn't you know it, our truck got to paint outside!  We laughed (a little), then got down to business.  Turns out we were able to finish the wall, touch up from the day before, and paint a little pony wall that was part of the entrance.  In other words, our outside team rocked it again.
   For lunch, we had the food in the truck.  However, we forgot that when Rachel borrowed the truck to go to lunch in town.  So we ended up not eating until we got back to the church, where we met Rachel with the truck.
   We had about an hour until we had to report for VBS, so I decided to take the truck around and try to find a new tire.  The spare had plenty of miles left on it, but it was just a donut, so I wanted to get it taken care of.  What I found out was double-trouble.  Not only did no-one in town have tires to fit my car, but the other front wheel had an identical screw to the one that had killed the flat tire.  It was only a matter of time before the screw either broke or blew out, and I would be stuck with two flats.
   So I was a bit dejected when I got back to the church, needless to say.  It was at this point that the war for me that day was at its greatest.  It seemed that there was little hope, and that I was going to let down the rest of the group.
   But right then, I remember feeling this calm come over me.  It is the same calm certainty I have felt at the critical times in the past: Sara's test to match bone marrow, Gerhard's heart transplant, the birth of all of the kids, etc.  It was a turning point-- despair or faith.   Failure or hope.  I felt God telling me that even though I didn't know how, it would be okay.  So I decided to go with God.  I embraced the calm and the hope, and it carried me.  Not that I didn't worry the whole night what exactly I was going to do, but I knew that it was in God's hands, and that was reassuring.
   The VBS was almost exactly like the 2nd day at the other neighborhood.  The kids were waiting for us, having opened up and allowed themselves to relish the joy and love that we were pouring on them.  There was even a pair of sisters that brought their baby sister, who could not have been more than 8 months or so old.
   It was especially fun today because we had inadvertently added ice to the play water, so the kids were filling their squirt guns with ice cold water.  Many a leader, HSM'er, and child were shocked with the cold.  And when that ran out, we just kept up with the hotter water, too.  It was great fun, and once again we said bittersweet goodbyes at the end of the day.
   For dinner, Tory and Kara had arranged a poolside BBQ at a friend's house.  So we all went over there, and amused ourselves watching the high schoolers find creative ways to go down the slide into the pool.  We also had a great discussion with Terry that went over into the next day as well.
   Once we got back and debriefed the week, it was time to go out and see the stars for the last time.  But of course, as with everything we do with HSM, we did it to the extreme.
    It started out just Shelby and I going out to explore into the hills behind the church.  But we didn't have light, and the first time we heard the brush rustle we headed back for lights and reinforcements.We found Garrett and Conner, and a flashlight, and headed back to where we had gone before.  The others were trying to come along, but not until we were already a ways into the brush, so we just continued.
   Up about 3/4 of a mile into the hills was a set of huge water towers.  We decided to head for the towers, and stumbled our way there.  Once we got there, we climbed up onto the wall that surrounded the towers and went around the periphery as far as we could.  That must have been when the others passed us, because we did not see them when we got around, so we headed back.
  The others had a quite different experience.  Instead of heading for the tower wall, they went on up around the tower to another trail that led further away from the church.  Apparently, they went far enough to feel a bit worried,  then headed back in the general direction of the church.  At one point a coyote howled not too far from them and gave them the chills.  Their final adventure happened when they ran across some suspicious activity between some trucks just before they got back to the church.  That was when we met up with them again.
    While they were telling us their story, some police cars came up looking around at the towers and right by the church.  The plan was that the kids were going to run inside while I talked to the police, but fortunately they passed right by us without a second thought.  Not sure what was going on, but it was definitely weird.  Hopefully they were going after the trucks.
   That pretty well ended the night.  By this time it was about 12:30, so we all decided to turn in.
   Today's lesson was about worry.  You see, between the flat tire, the missing lunches, and the lack of tires, the devil was definitely trying to end the trip on a sour note.  Because I was worried about control of the situation.  We thought we had it all figured out.  And by tripping us up, he was trying to get me to despair and lose hope.  But God stepped in at exactly the right time, as He always does.  His calm kept me from the abyss, and allowed me to recognize that He was in control.  And more than that, His grace made it possible to continue pouring out His love on the kids, even when things were looking sour.  Its amazing what He can do.

" If the Arizona trip were made into a movie, it would most definitely be a musical" -- Evan McElrath, Thursday Version

Day Four, Thursday-- "The Happy Working Song"--Disney, from the "Enchanted" Soundtrack

    Thursday saw our group back together again, working as one unit on the fitness center outside wall.  On Wednesday, the team that was there had painted a fascia about 4 feet high that went along the top of of the wall.  They had to paint most of it from the roof, and from the heat we felt working on the ground, it must have been blistering up there.  But we now had the entire wall to paint, along with a second smaller piece of wall and an entrance way that was going to be white.
   So we split into three teams: big gray, little gray, and white.   Zach was quick to claim leadership of team big gray, but he lost it again after about 20 minutes.  You see, it was a brick building, and we were painting with rollers, so it was really hard to get in the spaces between bricks.  Zach was given responsibility for filling in behind the rollers.  I think he really ceded his leader position after one too many jokes about how he needed to "take care of" someone's crack. :-)
    Once the real leadership was established (Evan had team big gray oversight), we all got to work a little more seriously.  I use that term lightly, though, as all of the teams were having a great time (even though the other teams were losing!).   It was so hot that all we could do was think of ways to entertain ourselves to take our minds off of the fact that we were melting.  So we sang.  Disney songs.  Lots and lots of Disney songs.  To the extent that more than one fitness center customer went inside shaking their heads in wonder (at least I can't think of anything it would have been besides wonder).   But we all found new levels of talent within each other.  I truly believe that no other group besides a church group can sing so well.  I mean, we make it a practice to sing every week together in worship, so it would just make sense that we would sing good together outside of church, too.  No other groups can claim that.  Just listen to them sing happy birthday at restaurants (I stole that example from Mark Gungor, but it is true).
   After work, we went back to the cultural center.  Herb had invited us to lunch today.  When we got there, we realized just what he meant.  He woke up at 4:00 AM to start preparing the meal, and he closed the center, his means of income, for the day just to host us.  We were awed by his generosity and his desire to spend some time with us, and we hadn't even tried the food yet.
   Herb had indeed prepared a feast for us.  Using traditional Apache methods and spices (including the acorns that we had seen on Tuesday), he made dumplings, stew, frybread, and Apache tamales.  He also prepared an iced tea that used herbs that promoted cleansing.  His aunt, who looked like the traditional picture of ancient Indian women,  had helped.  But they made it all in the back patio of the cultural center.  Their BBQ pit was literally on the ground, and there was a sense of authenticity and tradition that permeated the place.  It was really cool.  And the food was amazing.
   For VBS today, we moved to another neighborhood on the reservation.  Believe it or not, this park was even less happy than the first place.  Here, the slide on the playground had been burned to the point that it was just a melted, charred, mess of plastic.  The glass here was even more abundant.  The basketball court was fenced, but there were so many holes in the fence it just made it look violated.  And there was no shade except one canopy that we brought with us. 
   The neighborhood kids echoed the park.  There were still lots of kids, but this time they were "harder."  The kids didn't open up as quickly, preferring to keep a tough, macho exterior through the lesson and the craft.  It wasn't until game time, when we all poured our hearts (and copious amounts of water) into them, that they really started to show the joy we had seen in the other group.  But once that happened, the same miracle we had been a part of at the other neighborhood started working here.  And we were all immersed in it fully this time.  In fact, the time there passed so fast, I don't think any of us wanted to be done when it was time to head back into town.
   The camaraderie we had enjoyed through the day continued into the evening.  At dinner, Tory and I ogled the Legos catalog while Rachel and Evan laughed at us.  Zach, by virtue of his strapping good looks (You are welcome :-)), was linked to Evan as his nephew by one of Tory's kids.  That turned into great laughs for the rest of the week when we realized that Kaitlin might then be his mom!
   After dinner we went to Dairy Queen where we met some of the teens that have broken through some of the despair thanks to the ministry out there.  The best part of that trip was all of us running full speed out the doors and into the cars to hide from Katie and Shelby, who had gone to the bathroom.
   For our debrief that night, instead of the normal lessons learned, we drew names and wrote letters of encouragement to our fellow teammates, seeing as how we had one more day of labor and VBS to go.
   That night saw the biggest gathering of us outside to look at the stars.  The meteor shower was in full swing, so we all got to see a few really good shooting stars against the backdrop of the Milky Way, all the while having some good conversation about movies, theories, and life in general.
    Looking back, I think my lesson for today was about perseverance, patience, and endurance.  When we were working, especially at the beginning of the day, it seemed like we were making such small progress that we would never be done.  At Herb's, we learned about how you have to wait for the acorns to cure before you can process them to make the spice.  At VBS, we had to persevere through the lesson and craft before the kids really opened up to us.  And watching for shooting stars is all about patience.
   None of today was done on a timeline that I could control.  I was certainly part of the action, but the timing was all governed by God.  I just had to jump into the action, and let His timing control the pace.  Once again a lesson about putting myself under His control.  Even if it seems that things are not going as easily as it should, just trust Him.  His time is coming, and the results will be better than you can imagine. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"If the Arizona trip were made into a movie, it would definitely be a musical"-- Evan McElrath, Wednesday Edition

Wednesday-- "Smokin' in the boys' room"--Motley Crue (or Brownsville Station)

   OK, I know you are all thinking that HAS to be a mistake, but just hear me out.  Trust me, it works. :-)

   At breakfast, we laid out our plan for the day.  One group of us had to return to the cultural center to finish the painting there, while the others headed for the fitness center to start the outdoor project there.  We decided that I would take myself and two others to the cultural center to attack the restrooms and the kitchen area.  Although I knew we would have to work hard and fast to get it done, at least we would have the A/C.  And when we stopped for gas, I filled my monster cup with ice so we would have cold water.
   While we were prepping to leave for the day, dividing up supplies and stuff, Tory and I got to talking again.  We had hit it off the prior two days, mostly because once he understood that I am an engineer he could see the method to my madness.  That and our common fondness for Legos had pretty much sealed the deal.  But little did I know that a simple snag would bring us even closer.  You see, we were loading and tying down the ladders on the trailer for the fitness center, and Tory's rope had become tangled.  When he dropped a piece of the knotted mess and started working on one end, I quickly dove in to tackle it so we could get it undone twice as fast. 
   And that was when it happened.  I heard Tory laugh as I started on the rope mass, and we got talking about our love for untangling knots of all kinds.  That was like the third thing we have in common, so now, by default, we are good friends.  Rachel called it a bromance.  I just call it destiny :-)...
   Now, when we got to the cultural center, we were all set to have a hardworking but comfortable day (see above).  However, what none of us had realized the day before was just how much edging was left to be done.  And Herb didn't turn on the air for us today (turned out it was by accident that he didn't turn it on), so the heat got pretty stifling.
   It was Becky, Casey, and me as the initial team at the center.  We got done with the rest of the kitchen in pretty good time, so at that point I was figuring we were good to go.  However, when I started taping the bathrooms, I noted that we were going to have a LOT of edging to do, and that was going to take time.  Fortunately, I had two of our ace edgers, so the girls would edge and roll while I rolled ( I am definitely NOT an edger).
   About half an hour after being in the bathroom, it started to feel more like a sauna.  The three of us were all working in a room that was about 7 X 7, and it was getting hot.  But, being the troopers they are, the girls kept working at it, and by the time help arrived we had pretty much finished the girls' bathroom.
   At about 11:45, Tory brought Courtney and Hannah over to help finish up, because even with all of the work we were doing, we were going to be close on time.  Turns out that Courtney was suffering from a bit of heat stroke/dehydration, so we got her back on her feet while we turned our attention to finishing the boys' room and replacing the furniture and fixtures in the conference room, kitchen, and girls' room. 
   Needless to say, we barely eked it out, and at one point had four people working in the boys' room to get it done.  With the heat it really was like a sauna, thus the title for today.  And once again we ate lunch on the way back to the church.  We met back up with the rest of the team there, where we learned that they had also had a hot day on the roof, and Evan had been mortally (well, the pic was better than the real thing) wounded while valiantly carrying a ladder for Shelby.
   It was probably Wednesday's VBS that really showed me just how desperate these kids are for God's love as demonstrated through us.  While Tuesday had been very cool, and we had been part of that great migration of kids to the park, today was the day when we would really see if they wanted to be around us, if they were really drawn to what we were doing there.  I think that was my biggest worry as we drove out.  That all of the work that the HSM'ers had put into yesterday would be just a flash in the pan, and that the kids would not show up on the second day, or at least not in the numbers we'd seen the day before.  All I can say is that it was great to be wrong, and to see that God's light does draw people out from the darkness.
    When we pulled up, there was already a gaggle of kids waiting for us.  The park had these shades over the concrete pads, and in the heat of August (110 degrees and more) in the afternoon there is only just a small area that actually gets shade.  Well, there were about 10 kids all huddled in that small area of shade just waiting for us.  When we started getting out of the trucks, they literally exploded over to us and latched onto the HSM'ers.  It was awesome to see.
   As we were waiting to start and more kids came over to the park, I saw Miguel walk up.  He couldn't have been more than 4, and he had walked from his home to the park all alone.  And when I say walked, it was not a short walk.  And he had to cross a fairly busy two-lane road.  Anyway, Miguel and I had played yesterday when he managed to lasso me with a rope.  So I went over to say hi, and he looked up eagerly and said "I waited and waited all day for my clock to say 4."  To me, that was a testament to how much the kids here need hope, need love, need God's light on them.  And these kids are still young.  Imagine how much the teens need that, after years of living in darkness and not knowing anything else. It is just heart-breaking, as can be seen in this blog from Kara (  She felt it, and I could feel it through her words.
   Anyway, VBS was once again a big success.  We had extra play water this time, and the kids used it to nail just about everyone in the group.  The hardest part was actually saying goodbye, because we knew we were not coming back to this neighborhood on this trip.  It is sad when you see what God can do, and then you have to leave.  You are left hoping that their short exposure to love and happiness will linger on and have an impact on them.  God knows how much they need it.
   At dinner that night, Tory gave us a black light to use to look for scorpions in the brush around the church (they glow really cool in black light).  We then went home with several of us eager for the epic hunt that was to take place.  When we got back, we did our debrief with Rachel, then had our second big bug sighting.  The girls found a scorpion in their showers.  We did what any good scorpion hunters would do: shut off the lights and watch it glow.  But sadly, it seemed that there would be noone sleeping if it wasn't dead, so we terminated it.
  Seeing the scorpion inside got our hearts thumping for the "real" thing, so a few of us then bounded outside to look for scorpions in the wild.  It all started out exciting: we were overturning rocks, kicking plywood sheets to see if any ran out, rolling old barrels out of the way.  But alas, we saw no scorpions.  Kind of a bummer.  But we had two more nights to try!
  We went inside with slightly less exuberance than we went out with, but it quickly turned happy again when we had a scorpion sighting in the gym.  This time, it was up too high to see with the blacklight, but we considered ourselves partially successful.  At this point, I went out to view the stars again, then retired for the evening.
    Today my lesson was about trusting God.  Every time I think about how "we" can or can't do something, or about how little influence we have, God shows up and says "Yeah, well, I was behind that, so just look at what I can do!"  It boils down to relying on God rather than ourselves.  You see, I am right.  "We" can't do it, at least not alone.  But when we have God on our side, and we are doing His will, He can make miracles out of us.  "Now to Him who is able to far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory"-- Ephesians 3:20-21.  Amen to that!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"If the Arizona trip were made into a movie, it would most definitely be a musical"-- Evan McElrath, Tuesday edition

Arizona Trip, Day Two, Tuesday--"Gonna Fly Now"-- Bill Conti (from the "Rocky" soundtrack)

   I have to admit something upfront here.  I know that I snore.  Some have even said "loudly."  So I tried very hard to be the last one to sleep at night so that it didn't keep anyone awake.  If I did and you were quiet about it, thanks, but next time just kick me and tell me to roll over.  It really does help, and I try to accommodate.
    Anyway, I set my cell phone alarm to get up about 1/2 an hour early each day.  That way I could be ready, have some Bible time, and be out of the way of everyone else getting ready.  When you live in a house with four teens and a wife, you learn about mornings the hard way. And this was ten teens and a Rachel, so I knew I would be in for trouble.  But surprisingly, everyone gelled pretty well during wake up time, and we made it to breakfast at Tory and Kara's house on time.
  After a wonderful breakfast of biscuits and gravy, we all had to make our sack lunches for the day.  All I can say is that it was good to see that Kara's kitchen survived.
   We made our way to the Cultural Center on the reservation, about 25 minutes from Globe down a two-lane highway.  There were plants that I was not familiar with alongside the road, and as you enter the reservation you dip into this valley with mesas and mountains in the distance.  It was beautiful, but stark.  After all, it is mostly desert.  What struck me was shame for our government, who back in the day decided that the AZ desert was the best place to "dump" the Apaches.  There is a little water, and they have built up some farmland, but for the most part it is a hostile environment.  If it wasn't for the Apache pride, their ability to work together, and some grace from God, I don't know how they could have survived.
   At the Cultural Center, we met the owner/operator Herb.  He is super-friendly, and welcomed us all.  He is Apache (of course), and he has had a multitude of jobs through the years.  Now he mainly runs the center, and he makes traditional herbal remedies.  In fact, when we were done for the day, he took us out to his truck, where he was drying some acorns.  He had traveled into the surrounding mountains to gather them.  I didn't even know acorns were edible for us, but he showed us how to shell and eat them.  I must say, they taste like sunflower seeds.
   While we got to know him, we prepped the conference room and kitchen/hallway for paint.  We were going to paint the bathrooms too, but we didn't get that far on Tuesday.  So Herb, Tory, Evan and I set to moving the furniture away from the walls, taking down pictures, etc.  Evan found a dead bat under one of the bookcases-- awesome!-- and then we were ready to get started painting.
  This turned out to be a perfect activity for the first day.  We were inside and Herb had turned on the air in the conference room, so it was pretty comfortable.  And since we were all inside a pretty confined area, it gave us the opportunity to get to know each other better.
   The surprise of the morning had to be the condition of the exterior wall.  While there were windows that I am sure provide a great view, Herb had to close them up with plywood to prevent them from being broken so that from the outside you wouldn't even know there are windows there.  And he had to have some work done due to a water leak, and he paid a huge amount to have someone come in and drywall the repair.  However, it quickly became apparent that the drywall job was not so good.  So Tory, Rob, and I spent most of our time patching holes with the caulk we had while the others painted.  We got the entire room done and about half of the kitchen before it was time to leave for lunch and VBS.
   We ate our lunches on the way back to the church, where we were able to take a break for an hour or so.
   After the break we headed over to Tory and Kara's so we could make our way to the VBS.  They said it was going to be at the neighborhood park, so we all had an idea of what to expect.  Needless to say, when we got there all of our expectations were destroyed.  When we hear the word park, most of us expect a playground, some grass, etc.  But this was not the case.  I think I actually gasped when we pulled up.  It was a fenced off area at the top of a hill.  There was a playground that was literally covered with graffiti, and two slabs of concrete under shades, also full of graffiti.  And a concrete slab for a basketball court.  Otherwise, it was all just dirt and glass. LOTS of glass.  Broken bottles, to be precise.  And it seems like it is layered there, years and years of broken bottles just settling on top of each other.  It was profoundly sad, because here is a place designed to bring joy for children, but instead it is where the teens, for generations, have been literally breaking their hearts and dashing their dreams via bottles.
  Rachel sent out a group to wander the neighborhood and pass out fliers for the VBS while the rest of us tried our best to clear the concrete under the shade of all of the glass shards so the kids could sit down.  We did not know what to expect, and even Tory mentioned that they had had only a mediocre turn-out the last time they were there.  And it was the first day of school to boot.
  After about fifteen minutes we saw the group coming around a corner down the hill.  They were walking together down the street towards the park.  All of a sudden, a huge group of kids lined up in front of them and started walking with them.  When they reached the corner diagonal from the park, even more kids seemed to come out of nowhere and ran to join them.  This is when the Rocky theme struck up in my head.  I think I even let out a tear of happiness at what we were seeing, as the kids scrambled up the hill to the park.  And even though Rachel had not been there for a year, one of the little girls ran right up and jumped into her arms.  We were giving them something to be happy about, and to hope for.
    The rest of the VBS was all about the high schoolers.  They gave the lesson, played out the story with the children, and then conducted water games with them.  I don't think there was a leader there who was not SUPER-proud of them.
   Once playtime came, we all got into the thick of things.  The kids are so starving for attention, for hope, for light, that it is infectious.  You cannot stand back and stay uninvolved.  So we were all playing with them-- basketball, frisbee, jumprope- you name it.  The joy on their faces is indescribable, because you get the feeling that they don't get to express that emotion very much.
   After VBS we went back to Tory and Kara's for dinner.  We had our first big bug sighting there, a large stink bug that had wound its way up around the shoes in the carport.  We were trying to decide how to let it live and get rid of it when Rachel came out, saw the bug, grabbed a random flip-flop, and struck down the stink bug with great fervor and enthusiasm.  Poor bug...
   When we returned to the church that night, we had our first debrief, where it was clear that Rachel wanted us to focus on building relationships with the kids.  That was important for me, because here we are touching these kids' lives, and if we just turn around without another thought when we go home, what have we really learned?  Then was some relax time.  I stayed in the gym for a while, then went outside to watch the stars with some of the kids.  It was beautiful once you got out of range of the porch light.
  That was my lesson for the day.  Just like leaving the porch light, sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone, where you can see what is going on clearly, and step into the darkness, into the unknown, into the uncomfortable.  Then you can see a bigger picture, and even though it seems scary, there is a world you never knew that is just waiting for you to shine.

"If the Arizona trip was made into a movie it would most definitely be a musical"-- Evan McElrath; Monday edition

    I am determined to write down my thoughts and memories of my recent Arizona trip, but I have been so awash in emotions and so physically busy since I got back that I have not had the time to actually put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).  And then, I see that my friend and fellow leader Evan McElrath ( has done an excellent job of recapping just about everything, and I was tempted to let his posts speak for the trip.
   But then I got thinking.  The Bible has four Gospels that tell essentially the same story, each one for a unique purpose and from a unique perspective.  If the Bible has room for "duplicate" stories just to show various perspectives, certainly the web has room for a duplicate AZ story.  Besides, we weren't at the same place all of the time.  Maybe my perspective would look a little different.
   Just because I am doing my own, though, does not mean that I will not steal a bit from Evan.  You see, the title of this post is actually quoting one of Evan's tweets.  What is funny is that I could see why his post is so true, so I just decided to run with it.  So without any further ado, here is my Arizona trip summary.

Monday-- "On the Road Again"-- Willie Nelson
    This trip is the final long roadtrip out of three for me from the past two and a half weeks.  You see, we had been to the Colorado River (5 hours each way) for the weekend of July 30.  We moved our trailer to a new facility and took the girls back to their mom.  Then, the following Tuesday, we left for Las Vegas to support my lovely wife Christine during a work trip.  We got back on Friday the 6th of August.  So for me, leaving on Monday for another long drive was just me getting "on the road again."
  Fortunately, I had some great company.  We used our truck as a cargo van/ extra seats, so I had Evan, Kaitlin, Zach, and Shelby in the car.  While Evan provided the soundtrack for the trip (nice job, by the way), the others in the back seat definitely provided the in-car entertainment.  I think Evan and I spent much of the drive either laughing or shaking our heads at what was coming from the back seat.
   At our stop in Blythe for gas and lunch, Rachel and Evan invited me to go with them to Las Casitas Dos, a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican food place right off the main thoroughfare.  I felt a little like that gal from the Oscars, who said "You like me!  You REALLY like me," but I managed to keep my face straight.  Evan and I stepped up to the challenge of the donkey burrito there.  It was great food, but alas, neither of us was able to finish.
   During the Blythe stop, I was struck in wonder by the sight of a Greyhound Bus station that was little more than a shack behind McDonald's.  What struck me was that while we were there a bus pulled up, and several people actually got off.  Why would anyone make Blythe their destination by bus??
   We got through the major Phoenix area and entered into the mountains to the east, where I had never been before.  Although for the most part it was just mountains, there are some beautiful rock outcroppings and the mix of rock and green vegetation made it just unfamiliar enough to be intriguing.  Plus, there were a couple of really cool old bridges that we drove over.
  Once we got to Miami, AZ, we started seeing some of the desolation that would become all too familiar to us over the next week.  We drove through what seemed to be essentially a ghost town, complete with a fire department that had been closed down with the old trucks still in the carport.
  Our contacts in Globe were 3:18 ministries (  Tory and Kara have a huge heart for the people on the reservation, and it shows in all that they do.  But what I thought was funny when we first pulled up was that in the middle of nowhere, in this little tract of homes, here is this huge red Nebraska mailbox out front :-). 
   Anyway, Kara showed us to our living quarters (actually quarter, since there was only one room).  We stayed in what would best be called the activity center of Trinity Baptist Church.  They were great in letting us use the facility.  It consisted of two main parts: a)a kitchen, a dining room where we slept, and two small bathrooms that were air conditioned, and b)the gymnasium and two large bathrooms with showers that were not air conditioned.  We got settled in for a bit, separating the boys from the girls via conference tables, etc, then went to dinner.
    Dinner that night was at Roberto's, where they serve a delicious culinary concoction called the Arizona burrito.  While we feasted, we played a little "get to know you" game.  My thoughts at that point were somewhere between "this could be fun" and "what have I gotten myself into?"  Thankfully, there were no tears, only laughter, and we made our way back to the church for orientation/initiation.
   The orientation consisted of an activity and discussion that really opened my eyes to how we as Christians through the ages have really screwed up alot of great opportunities to share the gospel with others.  We also got to meet Tory, and he and I quickly bonded when one of the kids called the Mega-bloks "big Legos."  For shame :-)!  It turned out that he and I became quick friends (more on that later).
   After initiation, Evan and I picked up a basketball and started shooting hoops in the gym.  Actually, I should clarify.  Evan was shooting hoops, I was trying to shoot hoops.  Then Garrett joined us and we had, to quote Evan, "an epic game of horse."  The shots he talks about were indeed epic, and I was forced to acknowledge just how bad I am at basketball.  Now to practice for next year!
   That concluded our day.  I had seen some country that I had not been through before, had my eyes opened to the need for compassion, communication, and understanding for others, and was humbled at my lack of mad basketball skills.  All in all, a pretty good day!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What role am I playing?

So I know what you all are thinking-- where has this guy been who was so gung-ho about his blog?

Well, to tell the truth, there are a few legitimate reasons I haven't posted, and few not-so-legitimate reasons for no post.  I was in Arizona on a mission trip last week (which will be the subject of several upcoming posts), and I have had work and VBS at the church this week.  And I have a three-year-old who loves to make sure I don't do anything on the computer once I get home.  Those are the legitimate reasons.

As for the others, it all basically comes down to lazy.  I have been meaning to get started in my commentary of a couple of books, but I can't seem to get myself started.  So there it is.

But I am back for the moment, so let's get on with today's topic, shall we?

 For the majority of my adult life, I approached being a father as a mostly activity-based ideal.  I played with the kids, took them camping, went to sports or band outings, etc.  Supporting as a body in the seats.  Oh, I gave hugs and stuff.  I listened to the kids, too.  But for the most part, I thought that my being there was enough for the kids to know that I loved them.

When the kids were young,  I think that was a safe approach.  When they make a play, or fall and hurt themselves, they look to us for our reaction.  Even when they screw up, they look at us to see what we are going to do about it.  It is about shaping their perception of what our love is through various versions of approval, discipline, and being a safety net.

But sometime in their teens, all of that changes.  Hopefully, if we have done our job right, the kids drift away from needing all of our physical inputs.  If our actions and reactions have been on course, then the kids can predict what those actions or reactions will be, and they make their choices without needing the reinforcement.  Don't get me wrong, all kids make bad choices on occasion that defy any sense of logic.  But for the most part, their perception that was learned as a child will shape their choices as a teen.

This is where the true fun begins, and I mean fun both literally and sarcastically.  As a parent, there is no greater joy than watching your kids grow into adults.   At the same time, there is nothing more painful than watching them go through tough times-- bad choices, heartbreaks, rebellion-- the stuff of teenage life.  My heart breaks for them at those times, not because I am disappointed or angry (even though those emotions come for a bit also), but because I realize they are struggling with life issues that they have not encountered before.  My love for my kids just keeps getting bigger all the time.

So when those things happen, now what?  They don't need the physical reinforcement as much anymore.  Once kids get old enough, "come give me a hug" or "go to your room" doesn't mean much.  It stands to reason that the next step of parenting would be to guide the kids through these times with your wisdom.  Wisdom you have from living it already, wisdom from knowing where certain choices can lead, wisdom from getting to other side of adolescence and being okay.

But imparting wisdom is tricky.  You can't be preachy, or it comes off as always lecturing.  Waiting and watching for teachable moments is difficult when you have hoards of teens at your house to hang out.  So you have to wait until they come to you (at least for the most part).

And that is where I am so stuck right now.  You see, only a couple of years ago, I came to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior.  And I committed to living with Him as my role model.  And what I used to think was a whole bunch of "you can't" I have realized is so much about "you can."  And the more I take in about Christ, His Life, His Love, and following that example, the more I want to share it with the kids.

But alas, there is a huge lack of talking.  Because the kids think they know my reactions, they don't come to me.  The communication, the ability to impart wisdom, just gets seemingly wasted.  I have so much that I could share that would make things easier for them, or provide them with the mental safety net, but I have to keep it all bottled up.  At times I wonder what good I am doing if I have all of this in my head but don't get to share it?  All I can do is just live the example of Christ to the best of my ability, and hope that someday they will talk again.

As I re-read this, I am tempted to end it right here with a simple "Love, God."  He must feel the same way about all of us.  And that, I realize, is my rub.  If I am going through all of this, I should know that there is Someone who has also gone through it before.  And I should be talking to Him about it, getting His advice.  You see, His heart is breaking as He watches my struggles.  He is desperately longing to share His wisdom with me.  But I have to open up to Him.  I have to talk to Him.

Thanks Dad.  I hope I can be just a fragment of the Father that you are.  Please let me follow your example in grace, mercy, and love for my children.  And please help me to be patient to lead.  Amen.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Who do I want to become?

For those of you that don't know, my family and I attend Parkcrest Christian Church.  Over the past few weeks, the theme of the messages has been "How to become an obnoxious religious fanatic."  And while it has been a great series, our pastor Mike gave us a challenge during one of the sermons that has been itching at me.  He told us to take the time to write down 10 things we want to become over the next 5 years, then start moving in those directions.  So with that, I am going to list my ten things here, just as a reminder and as a source for accountability later down the road.  Here goes:

1. I want to be a pray-er.  I feel like I have grown alot in this area in the past couple of years, but I have so far to go.  This is about becoming more disciplined about when I pray (my daily prayer, because I am constantly giving shout-outs during the day).

2.  I want to get into the Bible more-- I listen to a couple of Bible studies, but I really need to be more disciplined about setting aside time each day to read through His word.

3.  I want to listen to my kids better.-- I feel like I spend as much time with them as they allow, but maybe I don't listen good enough to them.  This means not interrupting, repeating them to make sure I get it, etc.

4.  I want to listen to my wife better-- see above.

5.  I want to become better organized-- I feel sometimes like my life is nothing more than a trainwreck of activities and to-do lists.  I need to find a way to be better organized about how I go about it all.

6. I want to serve more-- We don't have the extra money we probably should due to financial mistakes we have made in the past, but I can serve with my time and my skills.  I love leading the high school small group, and they give me a ton of opportunities, but I need to find something I can commit to on my own.

7.  I want to judge less-- at the recommendation of a blog I read, I recently spent a month trying very hard not to judge others.  It was very hard, and now that I am aware of it I find myself doing it quite a bit.  I am trying to stop, so this just writes it down.

8.  I want to make sure the kids know I love them-- Somehow I don't think my teens are getting the message.  I don't know how to go about this, but that is something I want to accomplish.

9.  I want to read more and TV less-- this is going to be a hard one, but it kinda goes along with numbers 2 and 5.

10.  I want to make sure my wife knows how much I love her-- kinda like number 8 above, but with her.  She is my wife, and I choose to love her before all other people, and I will defend that love with my life.  But does she know that?  I am going to make sure she does...

That's it.  I'll update this as I can, and see how I do.

Thanks for listening--

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

First Attempt

Okay, so let me say that this is a little weird. If you have seen any of my facebook posts, you will notice that I tend to not talk much, and in real life I am pretty much the same.

And not that this blog is going to change any of that. I don't know if it will change anything. But I am going to commit to this just to see what happens.

My plan is twofold for this blog. On one hand, I want to use it as a place to write down my musings for books that I am reading. I try to read as much as possible (hard sometimes with 6 kids), and lately alot of the books that I have read tend to focus on Christianity, and what it means to truly follow Christ. The good news is that I have found most of them intensely interesting and useful in seeing how that should play out in my life. The bad news is that as I think and comment to myself, I have not been writing stuff down, so alot has already been lost. I hope this blog can reverse that trend. I am realizing how much I really don't know, but it is worse to realize that what I learned I have lost, too.

Second, I am planning on using the blog to just ramble, as the title says. I don't know what that means yet for frequency, etc, but there it is. I am sure it will be interesting, to say the least.

OK, that's it for now. Hopefully some good notes coming soon. Until next time!