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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

No One to Blame But Me

I couldn't decide whether I wanted to be at our Fantasy Football draft for the church/youth group or not. On one hand, it is a great chance to talk some smack and have fun. On the other hand, if the baby would have caused me to miss the draft, I could have avoided the embarrassment of yet another putrid season. I never can draft a good team, and this year I realized why, unfortunately, I was already in the 14th round when it hit me.

I decided going into the draft that running back was the most valuable position. Most would agree with this, but I put a bit too much of a premium on the position. Here's my roster:

RB's: Shaun Alexander (6th overall pick), Willis McGahee (2nd rd, 11th overall), Rudi Johnson (6th; 43rd), Ahman Green (10th; 75th)
QB's: Tom Brady (3rd; 22nd), Matt Hasselbeck (4th; 27th), Joey Harrington (11th; 86)
WR's: Deion Branch (7th, 54th), Anquain Bolden (8th; 50th), Roy Williams (9th; 70th), Jimmy Smith (12th; 91st)
TE's: Antonio Gates (5th; 38th), Marcus Pollard (13th; 102nd)
Defense: Falcons (14th round pick)
Kicker: Matt Stover

So I think I'm so smart for loading up on running backs and then I realize...I must start three wide receivers a week and I've gone 6 rounds without any. I don't even know if I would consider the guys I've got as second tier guys...but are proably better desribed as third tier.

While I would love to have Tom Brady or Matt Hasselback on my team (IF we didn't already have Big Ben), they're not going to dazzle anyone in fantasy leagues. I think this position is going to hurt me too.

I was ecstatic when I drafted Antonio Gates. Then I found out he's suspended and his season could be bleak. Bummer.

All that added to the fact that I don't even like the running backs on my team, and that's what I was targeting!!!!

Oh well, I guess the best thing fantasy football can do is prepare me for the disappointment that will be my fantasy basketball season.

Monday, August 29, 2005

One Proud Sister

Rachel is one excited big sister!

Zekers, well, he was excited that mommy's table had crackers on it.

Mom and Daughter

Karis Hope Wright arrived at 3:23PM on Monday. She weighed 8lbs 5oz and is 22 inches long.

She and mom are doing great!!!!!!

Happy Induction Day to You

Baby #3 is on it's way today. Least it will sometime early this morning when they start the ole pitosin drip.

Your prayers are appreciated!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Who has to Shovel Their Poo?

A student from the youth group sent me this article. Sadly, someone thought this was brilliant.

I think in reality, there are two things going on here. What is the number one marketing technique (even ahead of puppies and babies)? Sex. Deep down, I think part of the motivation for this exhibit is that putting young, fit women dressed with fig leaf-like costumes in an animal exhibit is bound to sell tickets. Why else would they place these women in these outfits? Do they shave the bears that they exibit, or remove the covering of any other animals? No. Then why skimp on what the humans wear? Because it sells (and because it is an act of defiance toward God to ignore our shame and nakedness, but rather flaunt it around, which is our sinful flesh's natural reaction).

If you watch reality TV at all (which, after "The Mole" has gone down hill), you would think that the bikini is the new miniskirt. I'm amazed at how many scenarios "Big Brother, "Survivor," and "Fear Factor" just happen to require the women to be in bathing suits. Even shows like "Elimidate" (which has its own set of problems) always seem to end with a hot tub moment. (Really, wouldn't a lady be freaked out if the guy wanted to "just chill" in a hot tub with her on the first date?)

It also conveying the second issue, however. If we are nothing but animals, we're going to do some really stupid things. "We have set up this exhibit to highlight the spread of man as a plague species and to communicate the importance of man's place in the planet's ecosystem," London Zoo said. A plague species? Basically, we are nothing but an accident. We all came from the same cell thousands of years ago. It's just the luck of the draw that we're at the "top of the food chain." Evolution doesn't just excuse adultery but justifies stupidity as well!

Do I think a human display at the zoo is a sign of absolute debauchery? Well, I do think if someone was honest, they'd have to admit there was an element of "sexing-up" the zoo. But ultimately, it's just foolish. If a person can't see that we are different from the animals around us, they need to examine humanity better...but not in an exibit, rather, see the true representation of man found in the Bible.

Blog Facelift

I made a couple changes to the blog the other day. A few reasons:

1. I was bored with the old look and hope that shallow, visual things will fool you into thinking I have something new or worthwhile to say.
2. We are close to the OSU season, and should all make our blogs match the occassion. (Not promising anything, but last time we had a child in August, the Buckeyes went undefeated!)
3. My links were inefficient.

I was sick of the whole "Links" section being so generic. Really, if you are bored, read my blog. If you are looking for something helpful, go to the sidebar and read other people's words. A breakdown of what these sections mean.

"People I Know and Respect"

Kind of self-explanitory. These are people that I know well who have blogs of their own. I don't always agree with them (I'm sure they'd say the same about me), but I do respect them (I hope they'd say the same for me.) Most of their blogs match their personalities well, so there's no guarantee what you may be reading from them.

(I guess that heading scares me some. It is not an all inclusive list. There are plenty more people I respect who are not listed in that section)

"People I Don't Know but Respect"

These are guys I go to a lot to check my own thinking. Again, I don't necessarily agree with everything they say (but most!). But I respect their ministries and I appreciate what I've read so far. Check them out, and we can talk sometime about whether you agree that they should be listed here or not. If you are wondering why I come at things from a certain perspective, odds are, you're giong to find it was influenced by the Biblical discussion one of these guys was having.

"When I Grow Up, I Want to Preach Like"

Man I love my ipod! I've never heard so many great sermons until I got that thing. Now I can download sermons, interviews and Bible classes and listen to them any time. I don't list these guys because I want to emulate their presentation style (though some of them are quite good) but rather their hermenutic and expository skills. THESE GUYS CAN EXEGETE! And if I'm not doing that, I'm wasting my church's time.

(Again, not an all inclusive list. I would pray that me and some of my friends would be considered expositors as well. I know there are plenty of guys out there [though fewer than their should be] that I did not list).

"Other Helpful Sites"

uh, enough said.

Hopefully, this will make my blog more beneficial to you. It may mean you are spending less time reading what I wrote, and more time reading from others, buy hey, that probably means you're growing!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Evolution = Adultery?

I finally read the entire August 15 edition of TIME Magazine, "Evolution Wars." (That's right, I'm a freak, I even read magazines front to back, not jumping around.)

Time's magazine on Intelligent Design was certainly interesting. Between this edition, and the one before it (Inside the mind of a 13 year old), they certainly have been publishing articles to create engaging discussion. It was interesting to read the thoughts of others, just to understand the "other camp." The article on evolution, however, didn't really solve anything.

Yet, something caught my eye today. As I was getting through the last couple pages of the magazine (Again, not really reading it for thought, but rather so for the satisfaction of completion) their "people" section had two things that caught my eye:

A) An small blurb about Robert Evans, 75, marrying his SEVENTH bride. Evans response was, "This wasn't impulse this time...I waited over six months."

B) A small Q & A with Kate Hudson. The question was asked, "You've said recently that you think manogamy is unrealistic. Would you mind if your husband had an affair?" Her answer:

"...I think I'd mind. I mean, scientifically and animalistically it's not realistic. Men look for nice, strong women to have children with, and that's their instinct. I'm not gonna put any pressures on my husband to be the perfect husband. If that's something he had to do and that's the kind of man he was, which he's not, I just wouldn't want to know."

Any wives reading this? (Wait, don't answer that...I think I know the answer.) Fine, OK, husbands, what do you think? Can we explain our actions simply by instinct and impulse? Is the standard of being the "perfect husband" simply being faithful to your wife? Do you really think your wife would be comforted as long as she didn't know you were cheating?

Here in lies the strength of evolution. It's not the scientific evidence (which isn't strong). It's not the scientific problems of Intelligent Design (really, what refutes I.D.). When you create a worldview that eliminates a need for God, you create opportunity for yourself.

You can be on your seventh marriage and act like it's your first. You can marry a man without the expectation (for either you or him) to remain faithful to one another. You create a world where you call the shots.

Frankly, I like the world that was created. It wasn't created by me. It wasn't even created for me. But I like the idea of looking my wife in the eye and saying, "It's your fault that you settled for me and could have done better. You're stuck with me now, baby. And our Creator expects you to stay with me."

Praying for Porn Stars?

Before you read on, I can't encourage you strongly enough to read Russell Moore's article of the same title. His intellect allows him to make a point that I would stumble to try to convey. (As a side note, if you are a father of a daughter...PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE read the article.)

I'd be lying if I said my only concern with pornography was as that of youth pastor. That I'm only fighting the battle as one sitting above it, worried about how others may respond. I'm a man. So I'm right in the thick of it as well. Fighting that the church would maintain its purity, knowing that must start with me. Sexual sin is unique (I Corinthians 6:18) and therefore, we must enter this conflict with a strong, yet humble resolution (Galatians 6:1).

I struggle as a pastor to know how to engage our church in this battle. I know of a couple of guys who have really felt called to attack this industry head on. They've moved west to the heart of the industry and have even set up tents at porn conventions. They have begun to meet "stars" and directors and have tried to infultrate the community. Their wives appear to be supportive and very involved with this ministry as well. They are refreshingly clear and honest about the temptations and consequences of pornography. They don't pull punches and call sin what it is.

Yet, I'm not sure. I don't believe I could ever participate in such a ministry. My flesh is way too weak. I find myself wanting to keep this whole issue as far away from me as possible. (Wondering even, that though their information may be helpful, some of it may be too much information, and cause a person to stumle...thus, I don't name them, or offer a link.) It's one thing to consider praying for those who are suffering in this form of "entertainment," but I don't know if it's wise for me to keep running a pornstar's name through my head as part of my prayer list. Like a tornado, I can see myself getting too close and being sucked in.

However, we have to acknowledge that the church has been negligent in this area. It seems ground breaking for a person to even admit they've seen pornography before (I have, I confess) even though we can encounter it even when we aren't looking for it. So what happens? A person in our church is left alone, thinking they are the only one facing the battle. People are not aware of safeguards or accountability that is available to them, as the church turns its head and pretends the problem doesn't exist. We, in essence, set people up to fail by not supporting them, or by making them feel isolated, as if their sin is unforgivable. We've got to do a better job than this.

Where does the balance lie? I don't know. We have to be honest and up front about this situation. Pornography is ruining lives and marriages of not only the viewer, but also the people who are making it. It is playing a huge part in the unraveling of the moral fabric of our churches and our nation. Yet, an arrogant, untouchable attitude is just the sort of thing that will fall us victim to it.

I guess the first step to being a better pastor in regard to this issue, is being a better man. I must be aware, not only of the consequences to our nation, or my church, but to the consequences to my family, my wonderful wife, and my own walk with the Lord. Can we be close enough to one another, as men, to help each other fight the battle...not so we can draw near to it, but so we can keep one another as far away as possible.

"god-mode" is Healthier?

One of the most unique things about my generation is introduction of electronic technology. Electronic media has exploded in the last 20 years, making those of us in our late 20's to 30's old enough to remember life before the changes, but young enough to take much of the change for granted. I heard a guy describe the "E-generation" as those born after 1975...I just barely slide under the radar there.

I still remember getting our Atari 2600 for Christmas one year. Once we opened that box, Christmas could have ended just then. When we finished opening the other presents, cleaned up the mess, and oh yes, thanked our relatives, I was quick to hook that it up to the TV and see what it could do. Later that week, I remember playing Pac-man as neighbors stood in our living room, amazed that I could control where the yellow dot moved. "You mean you can make him go in the bottom left corner?" "Can he move to the middle too?" It seemed that we reached the pinacle of video entertainment.

Things rapidly improved. Sega and Nintendo came out. Now, the characters weren't just colored blobs, but people who looked distinct from each other. Sports games improved graphics, plus systems collaborated with players unions, meaning I could actually control Mickey Tettleton.

Yet, for a while, they all still had one thing in common. Your perspective was from above. Watching as players moved to your command. No matter what game you were playing, it in a sense was like chess. You told the pieces where to go and watched to see the consequences. You didn't even think about this...it's just the way all games were played. Years later, once games had become more sophisticated and changed their perspective, we began to call the old-school way "god-mode."

Now, few games are played in "god-mode." Graphics, story lines and expectations have increased. Now we play most games from a first person perspective. Please bear with me if I overspiritualize, but I miss the old way:

1. "god-mode" seemed to keep a clearer boundary between reality and fiction. If I became good at a game (by the time I had retired my Atari 2600, I had figured out enough glitches to beat the cpu 200-0 in football), I knew I was simply good at the video game, not the actual sport. I could hit the ducks in Duckhunt, but I knew that didn't qualify me to enter the local trapshoot competition.

2. It reminded me that I'm not in control. Man, I loved nothing more than lining up on defense as Greg Lloyd. I'd send him after the qb everytime. Yet sometimes, he'd get blocked, the running back would break his tackle, or (gasp!) he would suffer an injury. No matter what, I really wasn't in charge, and couldn't control things. I may be playing in "god-mode" but I certainly lacked the omnipotence of God.

3. I remained me. Never once did I actually think I was Greg Lloyd, or even Bill Cowher. My identity remained mine. The game was an escape from reality (as most leisure is) yet I was the one escaping. It just seems that with the electronic age, many people are escaping the reality of who they are, not just the world around them. This may seem to be a minor point, and I know I'm not really articulating it well, but it seems that when the system is turned off, some people today have trouble turning off that cpu-created-identity as well.

For me, I had played golf on the computer long before I played it in real life. Once I finally got on a course, I assumed it wouldn't take long before my drives were 300 yards. I assumed my shots would generally go straight and even assumed club selection would be a rather easy thing. Reality is a whole different story. I soon realized that winning a simulated PGA Tour on the computer in no way meant I had a clue about real life. Couldn't this sadly be the same for some regarding war, sports, driving or even interacting with women? They receive a false perception that clouds their reaction in life.

4. Graphic depictions were less. In Combat, I would "blow up" an enemy tank. The tank would just disappear in smoke. Today, I'd see blood, fire, burning flesh--any number of things. Granted, the graphics are awesome and much more realistic. But that's part of the problem too. Could they be desensitizing us to the things of society? (Do I react differently to immodesty or violence because I just accept it as part of life now?)

I'm not saying that we get rid of video games. Not at all! I'm also not calling for a reduction in the video quality or control of the games. But I think, more than ever before, we better be interacting with others about the games. How do we engage in entertainment without becoming driven by it? How do I enjoy playing as a character I will never really be (Though I don't enjoy his game in real life, it is kind of fun to bully people in the paint like Shaq), without trying to become that character.

I don't know if it's the shift in society or in the games themselves, but far more seems to be at stake now. It's not an issue of the rating system that's used either. Some seem to take a moment to escape reality, only they never truly return. We better be having real conversations with real people face to face, or we may forget which is life and which is just a game.

(If you'd like to go to the radio conversation that sparked this thought for me, check out Al Mohler, "Video Games and Virtual Reality").

Sunday, August 21, 2005

"How Long Have You Been a Black Quarterback?"

Doug Williams got to field that question when he led the Washington Redskins to the Super Bowl.

Sometimes, the questions we ask are more offensive than statements we may make. The question reveals a thought process that is just assumed, and can be painful.

Justin Taylor writes a good article about the questions people ask adoptive parents that is a must read for anyone who knows an adoptive parent.

It also caused me to wonder: Why aren't Christians the most passionate people about adoption? It's our opportunity to flesh out an example of one of the most beautiful doctrines in Scripture.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Out of the Mouth of Babes

We're walking the fair today, and Rachel begins this theological discussion:

"Daddy, Jesus died on the cross."

"Yes he did, Rach."

"And then he came back to life!"

"He sure did!"

"Just like Frosty the Snowman!"

Just proving again, in theological discussions, you're usually better to keep your words to a minimum.

Like Gasoline Poured on a Poodle Jumping thru a Flaming Hoop

This post has the potential to upset Opec, Peta and the circus union...but the more imput the better.

Check it out and leave your thoughts...

(Just remember the goal isn't offense, but conversation.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Coming to Grips with my Depravity

I was praying and discussing things with Pastor Daniel when I realized something:

Conviction about my pride is what God uses most to humble me.
I tend to take pride in my humility.

Though I may be the only one with this paradox, I know I am not the only one who considers himself inept (I think Paul would agree.) Isn't it amazing that God can use me, despite how messed up I am, to bring honor and glory to God!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Standing Ovations

This post probably drives a nail into the topic of whether I am becoming an old man or not, but here goes:

It seems to me that we are much more freely giving out standing ovations today than when I was a kid. Maybe this is all just an issue of your perception as a child, and how things stay the same, but because your perception changes, you think things have changed. Yet, I can't deny that as a child I had this impression that standing ovations were reserved for only the most excellent presentations. Now, it seems anything less than a "standing o" means you must have some sort of grievance to file.

Earlier this summer, I noticed it at youth conference. Now it's one thing to support and encourage one another. And don't get me wrong, I don't think it's a sin issue to give a standing ovation. But instead, here's where it's tricky. At the end a session, a song, a worship service or even conference itself, the entire group stands and applauds. Again, I have no problem with this, except...

Then someone mentions that the praise and glory should go to God. They encourage us to thank and applaud God for His abundant grace. Problem is, I'm already standing (What can I do with my posture to show a greater gratitude for God?). I'm already clapping (Not really aware of a way to make my applause louder than the clapping I'm doing.). I'm already yelling (If anything, after yelling for a period of time, my voice is horse and weaker than when I began.). Then I feel somewhat awkward because I have already expended my best for that which truly didn't deserve it (compared to God!).

So do you sit? Well, then you look like a jerk. People assume I either don't like the person, have nitpicked something about their activity, or was deeply offended. I fear that the person may look out into the audience and see that I'm not standing, and have their feelings hurt. I worry that the people around me who truly enjoyed the event will have it ruined when they see me just sitting there.

I'm a messed up human being. Even the way I applaud isn't praise worthy. Praise be to the One who is truly praise worthy!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Our House Got Diapered!

I still remember hearing Kerri Gephart's story about God's provision. She and her brother were home alone for a weekend; neither had a car. They ran out of toilet paper and prayed for God to provide. That night friends of theirs tp'ed the house. She and her brother went outside and carefully took the paper down. Inadvertently, their need was met by others.

Our youth group, leaders and college students went a step farther last night. I heard some noise outside and turned on the porch light, just to see 50 people or so. Anxious about what may be going down, but also knowing I am way out numbered, I timidly walked out onto our porch. When Charity came outside we found that people went out and bought us a bunch of diapers. No kidding, there are probably 2000 diapers! It was an incredible way for people to show they care, and a huge savings of money for us.

Earlier that day, I was having a conversation about youth ministry with someone. They were asking me how we got the caliber of students we have in our youth ministry. I was arguing from the side that I really have nothing to do with it, we had some amazing youth people dumped in our laps when we moved here. The other person was arguing that the students may have been special, but it's been our youth ministry that has developed them. I appreciated what the person was saying, and didn't want to argue with him too much (after all, he was complimenting me!).

Last night closed the argument to me. I can take zero credit for the things God has done through SHAKE. The students and leaders are just an amazing group of people and it's a privilege to serve with them. It's embarrassing when people compliment me about our young people. I'm always afraid that the families will all move away and I'll be exposed as a fraud; a youth pastor who isn't really that good at ministering to families.

But hey, they're ministering to me! God's using them to provide far more than just our need for diapers.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

"Chicken and Rice Stuff" for the Soul

I'm typically repulsed by most of the "inspirational" materials that run out there. I've never read the "Chicken Soup" series (which I think are now up to the "Chicken Soup for the Female Teenage Gymnast Electricial's Soul."

However, I was greatly encouraged by my latest encounter with chicken.

Friday night, I arrive home from work to the unusual question of, "What did you put in your blog?" Now ordinarily, Charity isn't too interested in my blog, and her tone suggested I may be in trouble. I quickly ran through my blog thinking if I listed anything embarrassing or dishonoring. I finally gave my typical answer: "Nothing."

Well, whatever you typed, Linda called and said she felt bad. She's bringing us dinner just to say she loves us. Well, the chicken and rice stuff was good to the belly, but even better to my heart. I know our church is not perfect, by any means, but it's definitely doing some things right. God has blessed us with a group of people who "get" the whole shepherding one another thing.

I'm also thankful for our fellowship of churches. Props to Steve (who I feel like I know so much better since he started blogging) for offering to be a listening ear, and to a person in the national fellowship who called to check up on me. It's great to be in a place where guys don't just care about their own stuff, but for other guys too.

I don't know about this "Chicken Soup" comfort books, but I do know that the encouragement I've received this week has a title; the church. It's just the genius of God at work again. Not only is he gracious to us in providing His Son, His Word, His gift of salvation, but even while we're on this planet, He's offered His Church to help us.

It works better than any "inspirational" book, even if you are a teenage female gymnast electrician.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Exposit It!

Al Mohler just finished a three part series on Expository preaching.

I won't always beat this drum (ah, who am I kidding, yes I will), but I love expository preaching. Nothing is more exciting to me than seeing God's Word explained with no frills or gimicks. This does not mean I don't illustrate, but rather that we let the text determine the meaning. It ceases to be my thoughts about life, and rather, it becomes more about the original intent of the message, and its application for today.

As I've mentioned before, I know that I'm not the best speaker around. I think I tend to get in ruts easily and I'm not exactly the most creative guy on the planet. My English is often dilenquent (evidenced in nearly every post). My style often too casual.

But one sentence in Mohler's article caught my eye: "Of this we can be certain--no congregation will revere the Bible more than the preacher does."

If I want the Body to approach the Word with respect, I must show it respect. If I want the Body to study the Word with diligence, I must dilegently study it. If I want the Body to be passionate about the Word, I must be passionate about it.

In this I feel pretty good. I don't know when it happened. I don't know how it happened. I don't even know that I desired that it would happen. But somewhere along the line, I totally feel in love with the Word of God. I find myself craving it. I want to read it. I want to read about reading it. I want to hear guys preach on it. I want to hear guys teach about preaching it.

I do not want this in any way to sound arrogant. Sadly, I lack the same passion when it comes to obeying the Word. I still struggle to be a "doer" and not just a "hearer." But it's not because I don't love it. It's just that I'm selfish and weak.

I'm not as smart as John Piper or Kent Hughes. I'm not as creative as Francis Chan. I'm not as clear and direct as James McDonald.

But I do love the Word (as do those guys). And if that means that others will develop a love for the Word too, then we'll be just fine.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Losing a Bloody Battle

For about 16 years now, I have been waging a war against facial hair. It first arrived during those all too fragile junior high years in the form of some dark peach-fuzz under my nose. It made me look like I had dirt (or something worse) on my upper lip. I was then introduced to the miserable world of shaving. (Ladies, I've heard the arguments that you have to shave more square inches than us and that you face many more difficult contours--knees and armpits. But I'm not buying it. We have the jugular to deal with!)

The battle goes like this. I shave. In the process, I cut myself repeatedly (every time!). I then stick all kinds of toilet paper or kleenex upon my face to stop the bleeding. I then storm out of the bathroom determined to never touch a razor again. (If I'm lucky, I remember to remove said toilet paper or kleenex from my face before I head to work.) A few days later, my face and neck are itching, and I'm back in front of the mirror.

If you know me, you probably know I had a pretty sweet system worked out. Since I found that the itching came by the third or fourth day, I had determined to only shave on Wednesdays and Sundays (my two most "public days" of ministry). It was actually working out pretty well...until.

(In chronological order)

1. Charity doesn't like the "rough-faced" me. This surprised me. I assumed that any development that covered more of my face had to be a good thing. But she doesn't like it; stating it makes me look sloppy. Plus, it feels rough.
2. I'm involved in more adult ministry. The plan was really sweet when my focus was only on students. You pretty much saw them a couple times a week, and what teen cares if you hadn't shaved as long as you're paying for lunch? Now, I'm attending more pastor meetings, lunches with adults, and even funerals. There seems to be more occasions messing up my beloved schedule.
3. The patch. I mentioned a few posts ago that I don't mind having gray hair. I still don't mind. But recently, I developed this ridiculous patch on the side of my chin. It's about 3 or 4 hairs that are coming in totally white. At first, I thought it was some symptom of acne...but these bad boys keep coming back. It looks laughable, and I don't want anyone thinking it's some sort of tribute to Rasheed Wallace's "white patch."
4. Rachel. This morning was a shave day. (Wednesday. Face was itching. Patch was appearing.) As I'm leaving for work, my daughter is sitting on the kitchen counter. I stop to give her a kiss goodbye. She puts her hand to my face and states, "The scratchies are gone!" I give her a kiss, and as I'm walking out the door, she says, "I like when you get rid of the scratchies, your kisses don't hurt." Now I'm not sure if her mother put her up to that, or if my face only felt smooth because of the toilet paper and kleenex covering it...but I think I just lost the battle.

If I could take this moment to encourage you to give blood at your local Red Cross. If I'm going to be shaving daily, I'm probably going to need it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Christians: Embrace the Darkside

Relax, this has nothing to do with Star Wars. I am looking forward to writing a post sometime in "Yoda-ese" (Shelter from the storm, you seek!), but that's not what I'm talking about now.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 gives that famous passage about a time for everything--birth, death, plant, uproot, kill, heal, silence, speech, mourn and dance...and more. Do I really buy all that?

I walk through a Christian bookstore and I am inundated with thoughts about "Your Best Life Now" and urged to embrace great fulfillment here on earth. It seems that only in the classic authors am I encouraged to embrace pain. Do I ever mourn? Do I run from negative emotion and situations? Do I really believe that there is a time to accept and live in the midst of pain?

The last two weeks have in many ways been the hardest weeks of my life. I've been cast into an incredibly dark situation and been forced to have some very difficult conversations. I'm usually a light guy who loves to laugh and just have fun. I love to get deeper, but mostly enjoy to keep things on a positive note. There has been no way to do so with this conversation. It's dark. It's painful. It's heavy and breaks my heart. It's hard to see that a situation where someone else caused pain has forced me to have conversations that have also caused pain. But those conversations weren't wrong. Though I read Scripture and Charity and I have searched our hearts, sought other council and know we are doing the right thing, the pain causes us to question whether we're really doing right. But pain is not the ultimate gauge.

Everything about my flesh wanted to run from the last two weeks. I wanted to ignore it and just hope it would go away. I wanted to just try to smile, put it in the past and assume that's the Christian thing.

Here's the amazing thing...I've never felt peace like now. For all I know, these conversations have radically changed the life that Charity and I will experience with some other people; it may never be the same again. But I'm OK with that. Other relationships have grown deeper, gotten stronger. I feel like my relationship with my wife has gone to a whole new level. I feel closer to my children. I am closer to my Savior.

"God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all" (I John 1:5b). The darkness is not God. The darkness is not of God. It comes from being in a sin filled world. Some of it, I bring on myself. Some, like this situation, is brought on us by others. But because it is not of God nor from God, nor God Himself, does not mean that He is not there. The purity and radiance of His Light is all the more beautiful to me, as it's been contrasted with the darkness here in the world.

I have learned not to flee from pain. But that in the pain, even before it's taken away, the Healer is there.

He truly is Wonderful!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Quiz Time!

Yes, Brian found another quiz.

Of course, I immediately went there and took it. These things are fun...though I don't know if they tell you much. It asks you to give your take on certain hymns, most of which I didn't even know or struggle to classify as a "favorite hymn." So I don't know how much my results were distorted by those questions.

You scored as Sacrament model.

Your model of the church is Sacrament. The church is the effective sign of the revelation that is the person of Jesus Christ. Christians are transformed by Christ and then become a beacon of Christ wherever they go. This model has a remarkable capacity for integrating other models of the church.

Sacrament model--72%
Mystical Communion Model--67%
Institutional Model--39%
Servant Model--33%
Herald Model--33%

Friday, August 05, 2005

NCAA: No Clue About Anything

So the NCAA bans Indian mascots in postseason. (Yes, my lazy slumber of avoiding hyperlinks is over!)

What exactly did they decide?

--No mascots or nicknames that are deemed abusive or hostile on uniforms or other clothing during championships after February 1st.
--At least 18 schools qualify as abusive or hostile.
--North Carolina-Pembroke Braves will not be sanctioned because the student body has historically had a lot of Native Americans in it.
--Schools using Indian nicknames will be banned from hosting postseason events. If they've already been selected to host an event, they will be asked to cover all offensive logos.

What exactly did they decide?

Teams like the Florida State Seminoles, though they have the celebrated endorsement from the Seminole tribe in Florida, will fall under these sanctions. The Illini will also fall under scrutiny, even though the state of Illinois is named after said tribe. Again, "Braves" will be sanctioned in some cases, but deemed appropriate in other cases. A few years ago, the Miami Redskins changed their name due to similar pressure (though not from the NCAA) despite the fact that the mascot "Redskin" was actually in honor of the Redskin tribe in Ohio.

Since Division 1 football does not have a playoff system (there are entire blogs, not just posts, dedicated to that error), the NCAA's sanctions do not apply to their greatest money making sport. They are so passionate about this issue that they failed to find a way to apply it to their biggest sport?

What exactly did they decide?

They decided that the best way to show dignity to a race of people is to take up a cause for them. By saying that the Seminole tribe, the Redskin tribe or even the Illini tribe need their unsolicited help is offensive. In an attempt to honor Native Americans, they actually make the statement that these Indian tribes are too stupid to know they should be offended.

The NCAA now has the ability to discern the intent of words. Isn't it amazing that in an era when people scream "No judging me!" that we have escalated to being able to tell the motive of a person. Ignoring the fact that Brave has somehow been deemed an insult, the NCAA thinks it is now able to handle each mascot on a case by case basis. Because they have some ability to search people's hearts and know whether they are using a term to honor someone or malign them.

Universities aren't even smart. The NCAA doesn't just have to protect Native Americans, but it has to protect universities from their own stupidity too. Because some could be offended, a university could run the risk of being in bad graces with the public. Of course, the university is probably to ignorant to know that, so the NCAA better step in and fix it for them.

What exactly did they decide?

In an era when students fail classes, abuse drugs, gamble on games they play, accept benefits from boosters and leave early to go pro, the NCAA decided they really needed to protect those who don't need it.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Lamenting Language

I was listening to an episode of "Talk the Walk" about lamenting. (By the way, if you haven't checked out Todd Friel yet, you should. He's bold, blunt and quite Biblical...good stuff.) He reminded me that as a believer, I do not have to be happy and sunshine 24/7. Instead, I need to be honest with my emotions, and honest about what's happening, but never doubting God's providence.

So I'm thinking about a situation I've been a part of for two weeks now. I'm not a poet (I tried once on this sight, ugh). But I started thinking through how I would lament this current situation. I started thinking through how I would express my thoughts and emotions clearly. It was scary.

Not scary because I had to deal with negative emotions, I've been doing that. But scary because of the vocabulary that came through my mind to express my views. Now, I wasn't hurling the "seven explatives not fit for television," but I was tempted to utter words and phrases that I've corrected others for saying. Where was this coming from? Was it OK?

Negative emotions are great (Isn't Scripture filled with God feeling anger, sorrow and pain?). But I must guard that I never allow my mouth to dishonor God. How could openingly sinning be worship of God? Existentialism has watered down the significance of words. However, I can't escape what Jesus said:

"You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart."--Matthew 12:34

"It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man."--Matthew 15:11

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man."--Matthew 15:18

Jesus is SO serious about words. (I didn't even mention James 3!) So what is the answer?

I don't believe it's prudish to avoid certain phrases. I also don't think it's liberating as a believer to use defiling language. Is my dishonoring language is a pure glorification of God? That just doesn't make sense. If I know it's unwholesome, it should be avoided (Ephesians 4:29). I should discipline myself to avoid that which is obviously defiling.

Read more. Part of my issue is that I do not read enough. My vocabulary is so limited that I find myself using only a few words to convey the condition of my heart. If my vocabulary was expanded, I could more accurately express myself in a way that is not dishonoring to the Lord.

The Word must be my standard on words. When was my language most dishonoring to God? In Christian college. I grew up in the public school system and knew that I couldn't speak as others do. It was easy to see the distinction. Then I went to a wonderful college full of believers. I got lazy. I assumed that because others talk a certain way, it must be OK for me to talk that way too. (Ironically, I went even further and probably had one of the worst mouths in the school for a while. Obviously, the problem was not christian education, or even Grace College, but rather, me.) I am so quick to allow others to be my standard. I heard a person express the usage of inappropriate language on a blog once as, "It's not a big deal. Everyone talks on blogs like this." What? So when the media is electronic, God lowers His standards. Obviously, the answer is no. The confusion comes in that I am all too quick to lower mine.

I have by no means arrived when it comes to pure language. And I have no desire to list the words that defile God. Hey, if Paul didn't do that in Ephesians, what makes me think I could pull it off? It is about the heart. But I think Jesus was also clear that it's not possible to utter certain words or phrases witha pure heart. When I use vulgar, coarse or inappropriate language, it should make me lament...the condition of my heart and my intellect.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

New House Opportunity

Just to let you know, we just got a call that we were outbid for the house we were interested in. I know several of you were praying for God's will to be done and just because we didn't get what WE wanted, does not mean anything to the contrary of your prayers happened. Thank you for praying!

This has opened our eyes to housing opportunities we hadn't considered. Maybe when it's a little better timing (like that we aren't having a baby any day) we'll check out some of those alternatives.

I want to praise God for the home we do have. It's a great place that we were thrilled to live in. When we bought it we were amazed that God would bless us with our place. It's no less of a blessing today.

I Like to be Liked, But It's Not Likely

Just this week, I was discussing an interaction with someone else to a good friend of mine. As we sat there and discussed how I was surprised by the direction the conversation took, my friend responded with the following solution: "I just don't think that person likes you." Here I am trying to break down the minutiae of the conversation, and my friend pulls me back to examine the larger picture. It may not have been so much something I said, as much as that I was the messenger.


Now one of the things I received from my father was a thick skin. I was raised aware of the fickle nature of man, and have never consumed myself too much over man's opinion. I find Paul's statement, "Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10) to be highly encouraging and liberating. At first glance, I don't really care if the other guy likes me or not.

But I also know I am not an island. We are relational creation; both for individual fulfillment, but also for our fulfillment corporately of the mission of the Church. We need each other and should want to relate with one another. I also know that my opportunities to minister to this brother are limited as long as he doesn't care for me. So it's not that I traverse the globe looking for those whom I may hornk off. I want to be liked. (And yes, it does feel good to be liked too.)

Yet, I'm confused as to what my response should be. (For I think this friend was accurate in his observation.) Do I approach this person and have the very awkward "you don't like me, do you?" coversation? Do I ignore things and hope we can just co-exist? Do I try my hardest to convince the person that I really am capable of being liked (whether you agree or not)? Do I pretend to even notice?

Last week, I had the unique experience of growing closer to another person. For years, I have admired this person, and felt that we always had a lot in common. Though I admired the person, I sensed the feeling wasn't mutual. I have always assumed I either did something to offend this person or that my general personality was abrasive to him. I assumed this, but was much too afraid to find out if it was true. Then, last week I find out that the tension had nothing to do with me. It was a circumstance completely out of my control. I regret that this obstacle was in the way for a number of years, yet I can't deny that I see the Lord's hand in the timing of its resolution. If I would have pushed the issue, would I have pushed the person away? Maybe I would have found out things I wasn't prepared to know.

I want to be liked by people, (Well, expect when I wear my Texas Rangers jacket to the Jake. Then I want to offend and anger the fans. It's just a fun thing to do!) but I don't want to live for man's approval. I can live with being disliked, but I don't want to intentionally push someone away.

Is there a balance out there? Probably. Will I find it? Not likely.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Palmeiro Echoes Life

I know that few of you probably care about baseball, and even less about the Baltimore Orioles. However, I decided to post this for three reasons:

a) More people care about the Orioles than care about the entire NHL combined, so it does have an audience.
b) Palmeiro had a great career with my Texas Rangers.
c) I see eerie similarity to situations in life.

Basically, I see four scenarios for the entire situation (if I'm leaving one out, comment and let me know):

Palmeiro is telling the truth. He has never knowingly taken steroids in his life. Someone either slipped the drug into his protein shake, or he trusted someone he shouldn't have. Ironically, he spoke against the usage of steroids while they were unknowingly running through his veins. During the news conference, Palmeiro shared that the arbitrator understood his case, but was still obligated to impose the 10 game suspension. Why wouldn't he? Explain to me where the Collective Bargaining Agreement mentioned intent. Better yet, explain to me how someone can possibly rule about the intent. Isn't it God alone the One who knows the heart (I Sam 16:7)? Like so many others, Palmiero thinks his "accidental violation" shouldn't be seen as a violation, despite the fact that he failed the test.

Palmeiro was tempted by all the steroid discussion. He honestly never took any before. But after hearing all the murmurs, and seeing his career begin to decline, he decided it may be time to look into this steroid thing. He called out all who use steroids before congress, but then found himself giving into the temptation. Though this issue is spoken of in Galatians 6 (humbly confront a brother or you too may fall to the same sin), I see this as highly unlikely for this situation. Testing and accountability were at an all time high. This just doesn't seem likely.

Palmeiro thinks the world is full of morons (he may have a point!). All along he has used illegal substances to enhance his performance. He thought wearing a nice suit before congress and speaking very intelligently about the issue would fake everyone out. He is now in the mode where he will confess what is known and no more. "I have never taken steroids," is Palmeiro's initial statement. Once the test brings out that isn't the case, "I have never KNOWINGLY taken steroids," became Palmeiro's next statement. If at sometime a tape or witness comes forward to speak that he has proof that Palmeiro knew what he was taking, we can expect his defense to be, "I have never KNOWINGLY taken steroids other than THAT ONE TIME." He is in control mode. He is simply looking to save his reputation, and foolishly, many people will fall for it.

But there is one more option I see; one that is far more frightening to me. It's not so much about Palmeiro deceiving Major League Baseball, deceiving the media, or even his deception of the American public. It's about Rafael deceiving himself. In the Age of Existentialism, words can mean whatever you want. Palmeiro justified his substance use by "not really knowing what he was taking." The label on the bottle, or the man who sold it to him, used gigantic words (none of which was actually the word steroid). As he sat before congress, he tells them he has never taken a steroid because he can never think of a time that a needle stuck out of his posterior with the word "steroid" etched on it. Though he violates the rules, he imagines everyone else at the panel discussion is more guilty than he. He then can than say he didn't know that's what he taking, because he has convinced himself that he doesn't know. It's scary how we are often the easiest person to deceive.

Without accountability (true accountability), we will find ourselves caught in our own deception.