Monthly Archives: July 2010

An Internet Fast (unintentional)

This wasn’t on purpose.  I love my cellphone.  It’s a smartphone that’s capable of fetching emails as well as simple internet searches and reading, in addition to calendaring, unlimited contacts and other “media-related” stuff.  Along with my wallet and keys, this phone is always in my pocket.

Not the last 3 days.  I was trying to make a call before we got into the motor home for our trip to Wenatchee, WA to go camping with my friends from college and my phone was locking up on me, so I set it in a compartment in the truck.  And for those of you who know what it’s like loading up the supplies it takes to take 2 toddlers on a 3 day trip away from home, you know how long and arduous it would take to transfer to the motor home.  It wasn’t until we were about 10 miles down the road that I was going to have Amanda look up our route on Google Maps on my phone, when I realized that I had left my phone in the truck.

Bummer.  I suppose I could have justified turning around and going back to get it, but that was silly because I didn’t really need it.  So basically, I didn’t have access to email and the internet for 3 days.  It was good for me.  I didn’t know or realize how “mentally”, “behaviorally”, and “habitually” I am connected to the internet.  It was good for me to experience this 3 day fast.  Weird and unsettling, but good for me.  It’s not that the INTERNET is bad.  My dependency on it is what is unhealthy and why it was so good for me to be away from it for a couple of days.

I wonder if these kind of experiences (intentional or unintentional) help reveal things about our character?  I wonder if we ever pay attention to these kinds of things?  Do you?  Is it worthwhile?


What is the Bible all about?

It’s precarious to summarize the Bible in one sentence, especially when its 66 books long containing hundreds of thousands of words and multiple interconnected stories.  But it’s helpful to start with something so to not lose the forest for the trees.

When I was at Wisconsin Wilderness Campus (WWC), Mark Jalovick had such a working statement: From Genesis to Revelation, God is seeking to rebuild his kingdom through obedient servants for the purpose of world redemption.

During this next school year (2010-2011), we are going to go through the Bible with the Middle School Youth group.  I wanted to use Mark’s statement as a reoccurring thematic statement every week–something the students can remember and repeat every week for the whole school year–however, I felt that it needed to be “reworded”.  Here it is:

The Bible is about God continually working to fix this world through his kind of special people in order to make his kind of world.

The Bible – Genesis to Revelation
God – as revealed in the Bible, Elohim, Yahweh, triune, Father/Son/Spirit
continually working – active presence and involvement
fix – right / redeem the wrong of the Fall
this world – broken humanity and creation
his kind of special people – Israel, Jesus, the church
make – craft/ redeem / procure his will on earth as it is in heaven
his kind of world – true humanity, the kingdom of God, heaven

Any other ideas or edits?

The Sanctuary Downtown

“God is always BETTER than you thought. The love of Jesus is DEEPER than you know. And the Spirit is EVERYWHERE working the wonders of mercy.”  This is the tag line off of the website of The Sanctuary Downtown.

Peter Hiett is the pastor of this church and is an incredibly gifted communicator of the Word of God.  Every time I am done listening to one of his sermons, I just want to love God, know Jesus and embrace the Holy Spirit.  They make me think.  They make me wrestle with not only the theological mysteries of God, but practical day-to-day kingdom/Jesus kind of living.  They not only have audio/podcast sermons available for download, the church video tapes their services so you can watch them as well (videos on vimeo).

120 Year-Old Moses Visits (video)

I was trying to think of a way to end the school year in Main Street.  Nothing sounded good the preceding weeks nor even the week before.  It was Sunday morning, and I still didn’t know how I was going to end the curriculum year where we had storied through Genesis, Exodus (Leviticus) and Numbers.  Deuteronomy was the last story of the year.  How could I bring this particularly profound book home to these 1st-6th graders?

It was in the shower that Sunday morning that I got the idea to do a monologue of Moses, reviewing with the students why he wrote the Torah, and what he thought they really needed to know as they were poised to enter the Promised Land.  It was fun!

This idea also led me to do Moses when I preached in the sanctuary on June 6 when I was tasked to communicate the story of the Exodus.  That was fun, too!

Seeds @ Church on the Move Resources

I haven’t used any of these resources yet, but it follows in the same vein as LifeChurch’s Open.  Seeds is a resource center for Church on the Move in Tulsa, OK. It’s all free, but comes with a few reasonable conditions.

It looks interesting.

Mason & Haley’s Wedding

Last night, my brother-in-law, Mason, got married.  It was a grand event.  I got to perform/officiate the wedding ceremony.  While I’ve done a handful of weddings in my “pastoral” career so far, this one was special because it was family.  I can’t tell you how fun it was to have the “best seat in the house”!

Below, I’ve posted the “Words of Wisdom” that I shared with them:

I don’t think I realized it until it was too late.  But we are a dancing family.  If any of you have been to the Lake with the Mathis’ and been around when Aunt Mary cranks up the music, you know what I mean.  I remember thinking at some point, “Woah, what have I got myself into!”  You see, I’m a shy southern boy from Oklahoma, so this was a little out of my comfort zone.

And as bad of a dancer as I am, I’ve come to enjoy it.  Like their mother, both of my girls Sari (who’s 3) and Macie (who’s 1), love to dance.  All it takes is to cue up “Single Ladies” or some Taylor Swift song on the iPod and both the girls start moving and jumping around, and dancing!  Not even a shy southern boy can resist it when one of them reaches up for my hands to spin them around or jump with them.

Dancing.  My wife and I compare our marriage to dancing.

Dancing works great … just you and the one you love… until someone, or something, cuts in.

We all start off with great intentions about what we want marriage and this unique relationship to look like and how we want it to operate.  We sometimes think that nothing is going to cut in on this wonderful thing we have right now.  And while I don’t want to take away from the moment, the wisdom I am sure almost every married couple in the room would offer is: there will definitely be things that will cut in on your dance, your marriage.  It’s part of life.  There will be cut-ins.  The solution will be: how will you as a couple dancing through life together, how will you respond to these intentional and unintentional interruptions.  Like when one has to work a lot.  Or when family obligations or expectations collide.  What will the dance between the two of you look like as tensions enter in?

Don’t forget this day.  Don’t forget the vows you will speak here tonight.  Don’t forget the commitment you made right here at this spot, on this particular day, your 0 anniversary.  Don’t forget why you started dancing with each other in the first place.

Keep this partnership, keep this marriage sacred, and watch carefully what you allow to “cut” in and how you respond to it.

Dancing works great… just you and the one you love… until the song changes.

Dancing is funny to me because the song usually lasts give or take 4 minutes, then just when I’ve started to get the moves down, the song changes.  In our lives the music changes often doesn’t it?  Moods, expectations of each other, babies, jobs, kids, teenagers, hormones, money (or lack thereof), age, health.  Again, while we know that songs will change, life circumstances will change, we all grow up and mature, how are you as a newly minted dancing couple in this marriage, going to handle, together, these various changes?  Knowing that it is a song change really helps.  Knowing when moods shift is a helpful thing.  Knowing each other’s personality quirks is beneficial.  But there will be unexpected things that will happen in life that you did not, nor could not, anticipate.

So, make sure that you are both watchful, attentive, and intentional when the music of your lives change.  Talk to each other.  Communicate.  It really helps.

Dancing works great… just you and the one you love… because of your deep love and respect and affection for each other.

I’ve been around the two of you a bit and I love what I see.  I love seeing the sparkle in your eyes when you look at each other.  I love seeing how you care for each other.  I love seeing how you play and laugh together.

Enjoy the dancing, because it is good!  I know I’ve thoroughly enjoyed dancing with Amanda, and I know that you, Mason and Haley, will enjoy this intriguing dance of marriage together because it is good.

God made us to hunger and thirst for relationships, particularly a desire for relationship with Him as well as a desire for a dancing partner in life.

So dance well!

Mason & Haley

Worshiping Other gods… (video)

Interesting take on worshiping other gods back in the day and then in our day…

Small collection of Bible story videos

I came across a You Tube video channel with a few good, animated Bible story videos:


Doing the Opposite

I saw this video in a post on Elemental Children’s Ministry blog.

I am always inspired when I see various ways the church tries to communicate what Jesus meant when he told us as his followers to “love your enemies.”  I remember thinking about this when I was a kid: “NO WAY was I ever going to turn the other cheek… I would turn the other cheek all right, I would make that other person’s cheek turn RED!”

A constant principle that I see embedded in the Kingdom of God ethic is the idea of doing the opposite.  Doing the opposite of our natural human reaction in a situation, is usually the right “kingdom-kind-of-action”.  I have found that in almost every situation in life, doing the right thing, is almost always doing the opposite of what my natural human reaction is.

This video depicts this counter-cultural principle well…

“My show is OFF!”

Back in December, Amanda and I decided to turn our TV satellite service off.  It saved us some money each month and it prevented me from watching it too much!  And because we live in a fairly remote area of the country, unless we have a rooftop antenna, we are not able to get even over-the-air TV.  So we don’t have anything!

It’s been a good and unsettling 7 months with no incoming video feed into our home.  Good in the sense that it has really enhanced our family life and has directed more of our attention toward the girls.  Unsettling in the sense that we are weird.  We didn’t do it for this reason, but it has been a little counter-cultural to not have TV.  People, mostly guys, look at me weird.  They tell me not to tell their wives because they’re worried they’ll be inspired!

I thought about this yesterday.  We just arrived in Spokane, WA for a couple of weeks of vacation while we attend Amanda’s brother’s wedding.  Sari loves the show “Dora the Explorer.”  Her Nana and Papa recorded some of these on their DVR so Sari could watch them on demand.  They fired one up for her and she settled in to watch her favorite show.  About 8 minutes into the episode, while the rest of us were downstairs, Sari starts screaming: “My shows OFF!  My shows OFF!”  Maybe she hit the wrong button on the remote.  Maybe the DVR only recorded part of the show and not the whole thing.  No.  It was a commercial!  Can you believe it?!  A commercial interrupted Sari’s TV show!

We had a good laugh, but then I started to think about that.  Because we don’t have a TV feed coming into our home we are semi-immune to advertisers and the endless stream of commercials that implicitly influence us.  Now there are other ways in our culture that we are influenced by companies and advertisers, but I was thinking specifically about our kids.  They are not inundated by a constant barrage of products and services directed at them.  I wonder what our 7 month fast from satellite TV has prevented… I wonder how this break has influenced them…

It’s definitely changed Sari’s expectation of a “Dora” watching experience!

What spills when you are jolted?

A famous preacher had a friend who was well known for his short temper.  One day, at a party, he asked this friend to help him serve some drinks.  The preacher himself poured the drinks, deliberately filling several of the glasses a bit too full.  He then passed the tray to his friend.  As they walked into the room to distribute the drinks, he accidentally-on-purpose bumped into the friend, causing the tray to jiggle and some of the drinks to slosh over the brim and spill.  ‘There you are, you see,’ said the preacher.  ‘When you’re jolted, what spills out is whatever is filling you.’  When you’re suddenly put to the test and don’t have the time to think about how you’re coming across, your real nature will come out.

After You Believe – N.T. Wright – The Transformation of Character – pg. 28

I’ve been thinking about myself lately.  Particularly when Sari or Macie does something “not good” and anger wells up inside of me… and not the good “parental” kind of anger… just mad anger.  I’m asking myself the question, why am I responding this way?  I wonder what is “filling me.”

And this is not just about short fuses, it is really about how our character comes out in every day life.  It is easy to force yourself to respond correctly in the moment (“just don’t get mad this time with Macie…”).  It’s quite another to TRAIN yourself to respond correctly/wisely/kingdom-of-God-like ALL THE TIME.  The author of the story above goes on to talk about how Christian character is slowly and deliberately formed over a long period of time so that whenever the moment of “crisis” comes, it is second nature to respond the way God wants… or more specifically the kingdom of God is made alive in us (“your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:10) as a witness to this world.

Interesting… I wonder if God “jolts” us to help us recognize what is “in” us?  And perhaps to correct or encourage what we are allowing to fill our hearts and minds.

Two things occurred to me…

I love my two kids.  They are really fun!  I took this picture @ their daycare.  As I pulled in the driveway, Michelle (one of our daycare providers) was just finishing up the braids in Sari’s hair.  They both looked so cute and pretty as I pulled closer into the driveway.

Now I’m a guy.  Tough.  Don’t cry much at all.  However, seeing these looks on their precious faces made my throat choke a bit.  I was trying not to tear up too badly as I got out of the truck, and as they proceeded to plow me over with their excited hugs.  I commented on how pretty they looked, snapped this photo, then loaded them up in the Blazer for the ride home.

Two things occurred to me on the drive home: 1) how precious these two, young lives are, and 2) how fast time flies.

I cannot believe how special it is to be a parent.  I mean it is entirely frustrating most times (especially these seemingly “needy” years), but yet, moments like the photo above seem to make the overwhelming frustrations worthwhile.  I’m reminded often that we are raising and assisting two human lives here, and we get a front row seat of sorts to their joys and sorrows, happiness and pain.

As I visited almost a dozen graduation parties this past May/June with my 2 daughters in tow, I was told by nearly every single parent of the graduates (and some others) how it seemed that their son or daughter was the age of my kids not that long ago.  Telling them, “I know, it seems like only yesterday Sari was born” seemed trite because for them the range was 18 years while mine was only 3 years.  However, time does fly by if you’re not paying attention (and even if you are!).

I guess I want to make sure that I am paying attention as often as I can.  Because these two little kids are really funny, and extremely precious and cute. Ministry Resources

LifeChurch out of Oklahoma City, provides almost all of its resources for free!  That includes cutting edge children’s ministry and youth ministry resources.  Once you set up an account with them you are able to download video lessons, supplemental lesson pages, even burnable DVDs.  The lessons come in various “series”.

Take note: the files you download tend to be quite large and take a long time to download (depending on your internet speed).

Curriculum includes:

Under the Sea – for 2 year olds
In the Jungle – for 3 year olds
The Ark – for 4 year olds
Crosstown – for 5 year olds

LifeKids series – 6-11 year olds

The Loop – middle school (10-12 year olds)

Switch – high school (13-18 year olds)

You can find all these resources and more by going to:

What are Christians to do?

What is a normal, everyday Christian capable of and expected to do in the kingdom of God, the church?  I don’t think we define it concretely enough.  Do they have to ingest one Christian book a month, study the Bible everyday devotionally (and intermittently, theologically), pray, be involved in “ministry” at their local “church building” community as well as outside the “church building” in their particular civic community, show up for church every Sunday, be involved in a small group, journal, etc?

What does it really mean to be a spiritually involved person?  What does it mean to be an active participant in the expanding spiritual kingdom of God in this world?  And particularly for the normal, everyday human being?  How much stuff is too much?  What is reasonable, sustainable, appropriate, etc?  When are we supposed to just live and recognize God is entirely okay with that…actually more than okay than we think?

Perhaps our lives (normal and everyday as they are) are the labratory of God’s kingdom.  Perhaps the daily decisions we make as God’s special people actually bring about his kind of kingdom (or world).  Perhaps we shouldn’t lump a lot of really good, “spiritual” thing on people, but teach and instruct a viable “kingdom-living ethic”, modeled after the pattern of Jesus (who being in very nature God…).  Maybe then we will truly be exercising God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.

Pastors, in particular, seem to do a marvelous job living beyond what a normal, everyday person has the time (realistically) to handle.  It’s not necessarily bad, it’s actually fairly good to be able to have the time to devote to the spiritual life in order to lead people through their spiritual lives… but I wonder if pastors are supposed to be modeling a “daily living, everyday/normal, kingdom ethic” as well?  What are people “seeing” modeled in the normal, everyday life of their pastor?


I came across a video that describes what I’m wrestling with in this post.  This video is actually a promo video for a curriculum, but the content the speaker discusses actually addresses some relevant things.