Friday, August 31, 2007
I TIMOTHY 6 (The Message)
Things I took with me from this ...

"A devout life does bring wealth, but it's the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that's enough." How I wish I were better at living that out!

"But if it's only money these leaders are after, they'll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after." This can serve as a good reminder.

Jesus is where I need to obsess, not the trappings of this world.

  posted at 5:24 AM  

Thursday, August 30, 2007
...but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (ISaiah 40:31)

I learned something tonight. We read that, when a storm is approaching, most birds scatter or seek shelter but eagles will fly into the storm, using the warm thermals on the leading edge of the storm to help them rise above and fly over the storm.

I did not know that.

Combined with Isaiah 40:31, this gives added meaning to how God calls us to face the storms of life. We can fly into them but, as long as we are following Him, He will carry us over those storms.

  posted at 9:36 PM  

Apparently I have been living a lie the past 16 years. My wife has informed me that she has never thought of my masculinity as having anything to do with my ability to trim shrubs and hedges.

This is going to do a lot for my depression.

  posted at 9:12 PM  

Have a kid who you're concerned may start sneaking out at night when they are older? Here's a trick I heard from Mr. Landscapeman. Apparently some parents really do this. Plant huge sticker bushes all around beneath the kid's bedroom window. That should do the trick!

  posted at 8:41 PM  

It was our first house. A long ranch. And all along the north end, beneath one of the bedroom windows, was a long hedge of taxus shrubs. Perfectly square, perfectly straight. Most people buy houses because of location, lay-out, charm ... I think it was that long hedge that most attracted me to that house.

For me, there was something about trimming shrubs that meant a man was a man. It was a defining moment of adulthood -- of manhood really. Trimming shrubs was always my dad's job when I was growing up. He had one of the most unusual set of hedge trimmers you'll ever see but there was great machismo in his hauling them off the shelf to use them. I say they were unusual because they actually fit onto the end of his power drill. Now that is unusual. But even more manly. Using a power tool and hedge trimmers all in one. Wow.

Shortly after we bought this first house, whether they really needed it or not, I began to look at that hedge. It really needed some "straightening up," I thought to myself. It was a bit unruly. It was going to take a man to whip it into shape. A real man. A 27-year-old man who finally had shrubs to trim.

I went to WalMart to buy hedge trimmers. Hmmmm ... they didn't seem to make any that fit onto the end of a drill anymore. And, seeing that I didn't own a power drill at the time, that was okay. But most of the ones they did have were expensive. Wow. Who knew that manhood came at such a high price? That didn't seem right. So, I chose the cheapest ones. The Weedeater brand ones. John Deere green but nowhere near the masculine image. But it didn't make any difference. They could still tackle that long, beautiful hedge of taxus.

I needed an extension cord, too. Had never owned one of those before either. Wow. There were a lot of choices in extension cords. I bought the cheapest one. Unfortunately, I didn't give a lot of thought to how long it was.

I raced home from work that evening and hurried through dinner. I was anxious to prove my manhood. Unfortunately, the extension cord I had purchased was not long enough to reach from an outside outlet to the north side of the house. But that was okay. I could take it through the bedroom window. Not a problem. Just sort of push the screen out a little at the bottom and drop the cord through. Dang! Those screens pop out entirely when you push on them. Double Dang! The little plastic gizmos that hold them in place actually break when you push them out. Oh well. Part of being a man involves breaking things. I already knew that.

Now ... on to the hedge.

I trotted back outside the house to start trimming. I realized that one option, particularly now that the screen was on the ground, was to jump out the window. That would be a fast way from the inside to the outside. But it looked pretty high up form inside. Better safe than sorry. I trotted out the front door and around to the north side of the house.

I hooked everything up, put a little light oil on the clippers, and started those bad boy hedge trimmers up. What power! That hedge was going to look better in no time flat with those puppies!

I started trimming from one end. I figured I had a pretty good eye for keeping things straight and even. Really, if I could just take the unruly fronds off, I would be back down to where the hedge was nice and straight and level.

But wait -- dang! The front of the hedge needed trimmed, too. And, for keeping the top level, what should I follow? The contour of the ground? What my eye told me was "right"? The lines of brick on the house. Double dang! This was not going to be as easy or as quick as I wanted.

Just as the last remnants of sunlight were disappearing over the horizon, I wrapped up my extension cord, gave the hedge trimmers a small love pat of approval ("Couldn't have done it without you, little buddy"), and headed to the garage. I couldn't begin to see what I had accomplished. But I was done. And feeling very manly.

At this point in this story, I suppose there would be great humor in saying that the next morning when I looked at the hedge, it looked like the curvy back of the Loch Ness Monster but, fact is, it wasn't all bad. It looked pretty good really. My manhood affirmed!

Fast forward about three years to our second house -- the same house we live in now and I have all but sworn to never leave. This house had plenty of opportunity to prove my manhood. The previous owners were from England and had planted a very extensive "English garden" through much of the back yard. It was beautiful. They left us with a little drawing telling us what the different plants and shrubs were. Colorful and lush, it was quite a sight. Like I said, plenty of opportunity to prove my manhood with shrub trimming.

Problem is, a year or so after we had moved in, I counted just how many opportunities there were. We had something like 174 different shrubs and trees that needed regular trimming. It wasn't long before I broke down and had to admit it. I wasn't worthy of a yard like that. I was not nearly man enough for it.

It was very sad but, over time, things became overgrown. Occasionally we would hire in professionals. Even they would usually exhaust themselves and throw their Schwarzenegger-like bodies at the feet of my framed picture of Alan Alda before the task was completed.

Things had to go. Attrition took care of some things. Or maybe it was survival of the fittest actually but some plants got choked out and could be pulled out and placed (with much celebration) at the curb for the yard waste guys to take. Other plants just got bigger and bigger.

We added on to and remodeled our house a few years ago and that gave us the opportunity to get rid of some of the foliage. Some people might have felt bad killing living things. But not me. My manhood now came from killing, not trimming.

And now, this summer, we have faced something else. Due to a situation outside our control involving large moles and weasels (the type of which actually left us with an 18' x 36', 8' deep hole with a blue vinyl liner in it in our backyard, complete with diving board), the final remnants of the English garden are now gone. It made my wife a bit sad and wistful to see them go. But not me. "Good riddance!" I muttered as the backhoe dug in and began its work of destruction.

The end result, though, has been calling Mr. Landscapeman and see what can be done to make things pretty again. Colorful. Lush. "But no maintenance," we told him.

Funny thing how Mr. Landscapeman's connotation of "no maintenance" and mine are very different. To him, "no maintenance" seems to mean not having to feed the plants certain chemicals. That is something that had never even crossed my mind as an option when it comes to taking care of our yard. I figure that if plants and shrubs and grass can't survive on the water and nutrients that God gives 'em, then they're puny and weak and don't deserve to live!

I explained to Mr. Landscapeman, as nicely as I could, that, to me, "no maintenance" means never having to trim things. Trimming is "maintenance" and I wanted no part of that. "Hmmm," he said, thoughtfully stroking his chin. I could tell that I was challenging him and I liked that.

After awhile, he responded further. "What you want is what we call a 'dead landscape' then. 'Live landscapes' tend to grow and need trimmed. It's part of the process of being alive."

"Yes," I exclaimed. "Bless you -- a 'dead landscape' must be what I want!" I was so happy to have found someone who understood me!

"Well, let me work on it," he said. "I will take some pictures of your house and what you have now, and use my landscape software to drop in some pictures of what this could look like." I was very excited.

And he went on his way. He stopped by last night to drop off pictures of what he had come up with. I could hardly wait as he took them out of the envelope to show us.

There it was -- in all its glory -- the 'dead landscape' I was so seeking. He put together some images of both the front yard and the back to really give us a feel for what this could be.

Both in the front and the back, he had placed a large granite rock through which holes had been drilled to create a fountain. He explained that these really were "no maintenance". All I would have to do is add water on occasion.

Add water? What the heck! If I wanted to mess with watering, we'd go for one of those "live landscapes"!

Oh well ... stay tuned for future posts to see how this all turns out...

(The details of this have been fictionalized a bit but it's my story and I'll lie if I want to.)

  posted at 8:00 AM  

Feeling overwhelmed? Like nothing is ever working out? It seems like we live in an age where those feelings are rampant.

Articles like the following pop up every now and then but this one, by Harvey Mackay, is really good. Harvey is author of "Swim With The Sharks" and several other books. His insight and common sense-based wisdom are always refeshing.

One school of business studied 400 executives who had made it to the top and compared them to 400 who fell by the wayside during their careers. The idea was to discover how those who became successful differed from those who didn't.

Education was not the key factor because high school dropouts were running companies, while some MBAs were slamming into dead ends. Experience? Then those at the top should have been older, and that wasn't the case. Technical skills, social skills and dozens of other career-related variables were examined as well. Those factors didn't provide the explanation either.

What is the only single quality that distinguished those who made it from those who did not? They persevered.

Adversity will come to every person at some time. How you meet it, what you make of it, what you allow it to take from you and give to you, is determined by your mental habits. In short, you have to take the cards in life that are dealt to you.

You can train your mind to face life's toughest challenges—and it is especially important to develop this habit before you actually need it. Little children get their first lesson with "The Little Engine that Could." Faced with pulling many train cars up an enormous hill, larger engines refused to attempt it. Finally, a small engine agrees to try, repeating the mantra,

"I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can." After reaching the crest, the little engine triumphantly chugs:

"I-thought-I-could, I-thought-I-could."

I'd like to alter the story a bit for the grown-up crowd. Change the chant to:

"I-know-I-can, I-know-I-can!"

Adversity can actually be a positive thing, even though it certainly doesn't feel like it when we are facing it. Adversity is what defines us. It is easy to have a great attitude, a strong work ethic and a positive outlook when things are going great. But how do we stand up during tough times?

Consider the following phenomenal achievements of famous people who experienced severe adversity:

When Bob Dylan performed at his high school talent show, classmates booed him off the stage.
Walt Disney experienced both bankruptcy and a tragic nervous breakdown and still made it to the top of the mountain.
President Harry S. Truman went broke in the men's clothing store he started.
Sir Walter Raleigh wrote the "History of the World" during a 13-year imprisonment.
Martin Luther translated the Bible while enduring confinement in the Castle of Wartburg.
Dante wrote the "Divine Comedy" while under a sentence of death and during 20 years in exile.
Handicapped at birth, Helen Keller was not able to speak, hear or see during her long life, yet she became a famous author and worldwide celebrity for her charm and wisdom.
We must push through the adversity we face. If we don't, we will be poorly prepared for winning. People are successful because they face adversity head on to gain strength and skill. They don't take the path of least resistance. Adversity is a powerful teacher.

President Abraham Lincoln said, "My great concern is not whether you have failed but whether you are content with your failure." And few people failed in early life as much as Lincoln, yet he is regarded as one of our greatest presidents.

When you get discouraged, when you cannot seem to make it, there is one thing that you cannot do without. It is that priceless ingredient of success called relentless effort. You must never give up. Success cannot be achieved without experiencing some adversity.

An Asian saying advises, "When fate throws a dagger at you, there are only two ways to catch it, either by the blade or by the handle."

There was an old farmer who had suffered through a lifetime of troubles and afflictions that would have leveled an ordinary mortal. But through it all he never lost his sense of humor.

"How have you managed to keep so happy and serene?" asked a friend.

"It ain't hard," said the old fellow with a twinkle in his eye. "I've just learned to cooperate with the inevitable."

"Cooperating with the inevitable" enables us to catch adversity by the handle, thereby using it as the tool that it was intended to be.

  posted at 7:26 AM  

Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Check out "The Key To Sanctification" on Mark Moore's Blog.

  posted at 9:56 PM  

Things I took with me from this passage ...

Look out for those in need. Help them. Love them.

Show appreciation to folks when you see them doing God's work. It's not an easy row to hoe.

Be honest and straightforward with others. Confront false prophets.

Stay true in my own actions and words.

Drink a little wine (for my digestion).

Lord, help me. These are all easier said than done (except the last one maybe).

  posted at 5:55 AM  

Tuesday, August 28, 2007
How does it make you feel when kids start back to school?

As someone who pretty much despised school (at least until the 11th grade), it makes me very sad when our son has to go back to school.

Fortunately he does not seem to be as bothered by it as I always was.

(As a school board member, is it wrong of me to write this post? Oh well. I have to call it as I see it. Part of our goal as the school board is to make sure that school is meaningful and purposeful for every student.)

  posted at 8:33 AM  

I TIMOTHY 4 (The Message)
Here is how this chapter reached me...

Stay on your toes in the Christian path. Some folks will try to pull you off of it, even in the name of righteousness.

God has provided for us in all ways. We need to get the word out -- that is our responsibility.

Keep looking ahead and moving forward. Maintain your time spent in purposeful communion with God.

  posted at 8:29 AM  

Perry Noble has another great post today -- this one asking the question "Do you REALLY want to be like Jesus?" By all means, check it out. Jesus knew that life was incredibly messy ... and He knew how to deal with it.

  posted at 8:27 AM  

Monday, August 27, 2007
Click Here for Ben Witherington's excellent analysis of the Michael Vick saga.

  posted at 4:46 PM  

I TIMOTHY 3 (The Message)
Here are some of the things I took with me from this chapter ...

Love my wife.

Don't drink too much alcohol.

Be serious about how I handle my life and conduct myself.

We're all called to be leaders as we journey.

The Great Commission needs to be alive in me.

  posted at 5:29 AM  

A friend of mine mentioned to me the other day that he enjoyed reading about the church that is opening up in a bar, which he had linked to through my blog. I do not recall providing a direct link to this before so I researched and found Forefront Church in Chesapeake, Virginia ... go to their website and check out their new Tuesday night service for details on their church in a bar. Great stuff.

(Speaking of which, do you know the difference between a saloon and an elephant fart? One is a "bar room" and the other is a "BARROOM!")

  posted at 5:15 AM  

Sunday, August 26, 2007
I have experienced a couple of incredible "Spiritual Highs" over the past few days. Though these two instances were pretty different from one another, they were still incredible experiences.

The first was last Friday when I was invited to be a part of the "teacher commissioning service" for Evan's school. I was very humbled to even be a part of such a thing. The real highlight was when an area pastor friend of mine led a communion service for all present. It was hugely touching to be a part of something involving so many people who have heard and answered God's call to equip and inspire the new generation of Christ-centered leaders. We ended in a couple of praise songs (both of which I unfortunately struggled with the words on ... I think I have written before that I am horrible at remembering lyrics) and it was really hard for all of us, I think, to leave that moment afterward.

The next incredible experience was this morning at our church's annual "Big House" celebration. This is the Sunday where we spill out onto the street for fun, food, and fellowship. The high point for me, though, was when we had a praise and worship service in the sanctuary. The band was really rocking and they counted that we had 597 people in our sanctuary -- a huge standing room only crowd. How awesome it would be if all of those people are back next week ... and the next ... and the next ... and the next.

Lisa, Evan and I went up to the balcony for the service ... I have sometimes wondered about the structural integrity of our old church's balcony but this morning proved that it can handle a full and rocking house. (Just don't look too closely at the big cracks in the wall as you come downstairs.)

In any event, what a wonderful couple of experiences to bask in as we start the new week!

  posted at 2:31 PM  

II TIMOTHY 2 (The Message)
Here are come things I took with me from this passage...

Be steadfast.

We must follow in the way that we know is right. Do not have herd mentality and go along with others who may be off-track. At the same time, though, remain strong in showing love to those others.

Maintain purity of mind and body.

Be a kind and patient teacher. Being argumentative only makes others more deeply entrenched in their incorrect beliefs.

  posted at 7:25 AM  

Saturday, August 25, 2007
I TIMOTHY 1 (The Message)
Key thoughts I take from I Timothy 1:

God has a place for each of us. We must stay there until He calls us elsewhere.

Love is the root of Jesus' instruction. The early church wanted to make it more than that, just as we often want to make church more but love is the roof, the stem, and the plant of what He calls us to.

Love does not mean not being truthful ... it does mean being careful in how you present the truth.

It is amazing the attention that God wants to pay to each of us ... the relationship He wants to have with us ... the ways in which He strives to teach us.

No one ever said that living as a Christ follower would be easy. There will be adversity ... there will be moments of testing so strong we want to throw in the towel ... but we continue to follow because we know that God is in control.

  posted at 6:31 AM  

This past week, I have seen much written about the questioning words penned by Mother Teresa which have recently surfaced. When I read about this, I did not see a woman questioning God's sovreignty but rather a woman who always faced -- and accepted it as her calling in life to live in -- such horrible despair and she lived her life so authentically that these pained words had to come out. Much like David's writings.

Scott Hodge has what I think is a great post on this -- spot on with my feelings. Check it out.

  posted at 6:06 AM  

Tuesday, August 21, 2007
On Sunday night, our church (Sidney First United Methodist) rented out the entire local drive-in theater for a showing of Evan Almighty. Unfortunately, because we had just returned from being out of town, we were unable to attend but what a great time it must have been!

Despite the threat of rain and storms, over 400 people showed up!

I know that a lot of hard work and perspiration went into pulling this event off. Kudos go out to the church members who were involved. What a fun way to celebrate Jesus -- community, fellowship and outreach!

  posted at 6:00 AM  

Sunday, August 19, 2007
Admittedly, they capture my attention (they activate my reticular) which I guess is the intention but is anyone else incredibly tired of the online ads for which seem to be just about everywhere? Or have they just taken over my computer? Right now, I am getting ads from them with a green alien and some clown-looking person that appears to be shaking dog doodoo off his foot. Their ads paint their entire industry with a sleezeball brush, in my opinion.

  posted at 7:03 AM  

Check out Bryan's Office today with a great piece he's written titled "Getting All That You Need."

  posted at 6:58 AM  

Friday, August 17, 2007
Something to think about ... I have read a couple of times lately how sitcoms are to be partially blamed for weakening the father and husband role in the family. I think that there may be some truth to this. There has indeed been a change over the years in the roles that men play in sitcoms, and it generally hasn't been for the better. Could it be having a detrimental effect on the American family? Perhaps.

On the other hand, I think that the roles played by women have gotten much stronger and more confident over the years and that is a good thing. I applaud television producers for that as I think it gives the young ladies of our world some good role models.

Let's take a look at stereotypical male and female roles in sitcoms through the years ...

1950s and 1960s sitcoms ... think of Father Knows Best and Leave It To Beaver. The dad was the respected head of household ... the mom was demure, proper, relatively quiet, and always in the home baking apple pies or telling the kids to wait until their dad gets home.

One show that broke out of the mold a bit was Bewitched but that was really only because Samantha had this "other" life where she could be a bit more adventurous ... when it came to her life in this world, though, Bewitched was pretty much typical of other shows at the time.

1970s ... two of the big sitcoms I remember are All In The Family and The Jeffersons. The male leads were loud and bigoted for the most part ... a bit of the buffoon and usually made fun of. I don't need to say a whole lot about the role that Edith Bunker played ... Mrs. Jefferson had a strong role but she started this trend of always putting down her husband.

And then there's Maude ... a strong, confident female lead but always belittling Walter -- "God will get you for that, Walter", making him come across as rather milquetoast.

1980s ... a lot of the shows in the 80s involved single parents so that was a switch and we saw some strong single voices arise from that -- Diff'rent Strokes, Facts of Life and Who's The Boss come to mind. Growing Pains, Family Ties and The Cosby Show, however, all had two-parent families and they were well-balanced overall in the roles between men and women.

1990s ... we moved from single parent families to singles living alone ... Seinfeld, Friends, Cheers (started in the 80s actually), Drew Carey, and Frasier. But popular sitcoms involving families tended to focus on dads who were bumbling and ineffective ... nice guys but they just can't get it all together. Think of The Simpsons (started in the 80s actually), Home Improvement, Married with Children and Roseanne. Oftentimes, the mom was the strong character in the family -- the voice of reason.

In the 2000s, we have seen more of the same. Men who are porttrayed as perhaps loveable but bumbling, impotent, wishy-washy buffoons. They are always the "fall guy" -- the one who makes people laugh but hardly role model material for the leaders of tomorrow. Everybody Loves Raymond and The King of Queens come to mind. And there is a trend toward the wives making sport of the husband, belittling them, emasculating them.

I don't know ... it does make you wonder. What role models are our culture putting forth for young boys today? Not that sitcoms are meant to be burdened with offering up role models but consider the other big sources of role models -- sports figures and musicians -- and think about how many of them are really building leaders and putting forth the way that dads want their sons to be.

And all the while, we are playing the role of Tim Allen or Ray Romano in our own lives.

I am not sure where this leaves us but I do find it to be disturbing.

  posted at 10:46 AM  

Perry Noble recently listed "5 Gut Check Questions" on his blog. While these questions are intended for those in profeesional ministry, I think they really apply to anyone trying to live his or her life as a disciple.

  posted at 10:35 AM  

Thursday, August 16, 2007
There was something mysterious about the upstairs of my grandparents' house. Behind a door off of the dining room was a long and dark enclosed stairway that led to the second floor. Each wooden step had a textured black hard rubber tread nailed to it, perfect for my sister, my cousin, and me to scoot down on our butts. Some of the treads were cracked or broken -- you had to watch for those and, over time you knew instinctively where they were at. There was one turn in the staircase which, if you didn't plan for, would cause you to crash into the wall in front of you. Sometimes I didn't plan on it on purpose.

But what exactly was on the second floor? Three bedrooms. The largest was grandpa's and the next largest was grandma's (she snored). His room had a row of dormer windows but it still always seemed very dark as they were shaded by large maple trees in the front yard. Grandma's room had one small window and was always incredibly dark. The third bedroom was my uncle's. He was about nine years older than me. His room was very small but both his room and grandma's had what we called "little rooms" off of them which were actually no more than closets built into the attic. Both "little rooms" were full. My uncle's seemed to be full of partial rolls of left-over wallpaper, model rocket parts, and collected Mountain Dew cans. (I suspect he wanted to collect beer cans but his very Methodist parents would never have allowed that.) The "little room" off of grandma's room was full of old clothes including formal dresses that my mom and aunts had worn growing up.

The house's only bathroom was also upstairs and it had its own "little room" built into the attic -- a room which seemed to house cleaning supplies but, when my aunts and uncles cleaned out the house after grandma and grandpa had both passed away, yielded boxes and boxes of old magazines and canning jars. (The house turned out to be quite full of old canning jars.)

I don't remember anyone ever scolding my cousin, my sister, and I about exploring the upstairs, nor anyone warning us against doing so but, somehow, we just knew that we really weren't to explore up there. Who knew what secrets it might hold? We always wondered but never really found out. But, still, when we were upstairs -- just the three of us -- it was our world of mystery and intrigue.

When necessary and always with permission, we'd go upstairs to use the bathroom. There was no lock on the door so one of us would stand guard outside for whoever had to go. And then, quickly and bump by bump, we'd slide back down the stairs, leaving the mysterious upstairs and returning to the world of adults.

  posted at 8:35 PM  

WORKING TOO MUCH? sent around this daily devotion that has some great insight on what God expects of us and the perfect plan that His Word has laid out for us.

For all their days their task is filled with pain and frustration. Even at night their minds do not rest. This also is meaningless. Ecclesiastes 2:23

Do Not Rest – Ecclesiastes paints a sorry picture of life. “No rest for the weary,” seems to be the author’s conclusion. In stark opposition to the thought of the Psalms (cf. Psalm 4:8), this picture is life filled with toil. If this is true of ancient Israel, how much more is it true today? Our mottos betray our real gods. “The global economy Isaiah 24-7.” “The city never sleeps.” “Managing the daily grind.” Aren’t we all crying out for some balance in our lives? Perhaps we haven’t learned one of life’s basic lessons. Burning the candle at both ends not only robs you of health, it steals your spirituality. God didn’t design you that way. Everything in the universe needs rest.

Even as followers, it’s easy to slip into the workaholic mode. In fact, many Christians seem to think that if they don’t work every minute in the campaign to restore the Kingdom, God’s will on earth will fail. That is seductive arrogance. God is perfectly capable of fulfilling His plan without you. You are invited along as a guest, not an essential contributor. The sooner we begin to realize that it is God Who is accomplishing His will, not us, the sooner we will begin to model the way that He wants His will exercised in our lives.

Jesus tells us to take up our crosses daily. Did you notice that this implies that we lay them down nightly? If you’re carrying your cross 24-7, then you can’t take it up, can you? You already have it on your shoulders. It’s impossible for you to experience God’s planned rest if you won’t let go of the burden. Today, it’s so easy to think that work equals success. But the Bible has a different, and far healthier, view. Work equals toil. Submission equals success. When I think that success is up to me, I am in for a torturous ride. What is up to me is submission to God’s direction, and at least in one case His direction is unquestionably clear. Rest is part of life’s planned routine.

Ecclesiastes uses the words lo-shakhav libo (does not lie down his heart). We know that the biblical use of “heart” is a term that means the whole existence of a man or woman. The will, emotions, intellect and spirit are all summarized by the word “heart.” What Ecclesiastes makes abundantly clear is that life on the earth without submission to God’s direction is a living hell. You’re born. You work all your life. You die. That’s it. No rest, and no meaning to the whole thing. If you buy into the world’s view of human effort, you’ll be draining yourself even when you dream. I’m betting that we all know at least a taste of this horror. I’m betting that every one of us has had nights when there was no rest – because we did not see that all circumstances are really under the hand of the Holy One of Israel.

The world is really made up of two kinds of people: workers and resters. The difference between these two is simple. One group thinks that life is up to them. The other knows that life is a journey of companionship with a God Who is in charge. Which one are you?

  posted at 8:03 AM  

THE major newspaper in Texas' capital Austin ran THIS ARTICLE on the emergent church scene there -- very interesting stuff.

And if you're looking for a more favorable take on posters for the emerging church than the negative ones that have been spread around, CLICK HERE.

  posted at 7:58 AM  

Wednesday, August 15, 2007
I follow about 50 - 60 blogs with some regularity. I follow them at least enough to scan them and see if I want to read further. And I am always adding more to my list.

In recent weeks, I have seen no fewer than four bloggers discontinue blogging or express concern over their blogs and the impact that they are having on those around them. Namely, sharing personal stuff via their blog is not always sitting well with those who know and love them.

That is unfortunate.

Writers always walk this fine line ... we strive for a clear, honest, authentic voice and that can offend others. If, on the other hand, we completely fictionalize something, then we can give people some really strange ideas about ourselves.

It is a difficult line.

One issue can happen when we turn our writing into "emotional" things. This warning first came to me several years ago when I was warned against turning e-mail into emotional-mail. Sometimes it is easy to hide behind the keyboard, not realizing the impact we have on others. If we are to live out our lives with kindness, we need to keep that in mind, and be very careful what we write.

But, just the same, those who know people who blog and read their blogs need to give the blogger some room for artistic expression. Cut them some slack. Take things with a grain of salt.

As for my blogging, I am nearing 900 posts and I hope I have not torqued anyone off too badly during that time. Really, I try to remind myself that I am not writing for anyone to read it ... I am writing for myself ... a blog is a great way to keep track of things and hope that someone else's server is always backed up and doesn't crash ... rather than just worry about my own.

  posted at 11:15 PM  

... for your recent prayers for my friend's father. He is doing well. I am not quite sure how this happens but they now think his recent issues have been due to his back problems, not heart failure. They hope to release him from the hospital tomorrow and have him go to a rehab center for an unspecified period of time. Again, thank you.

  posted at 11:14 PM  

Our senior pastor recently told me of one of his favorite people, Steve Sjogren. Steve teaches about love and kindness, and servant evangelism. Link HERE for a recent post Steve had on his blog. Let's hope that he is prophetic.

  posted at 10:21 PM  

BOOK REVIEW: "In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day"
I have already posted about this book by Mark Batterson a couple of times. I am done reading it now.

By calling on stories from the Bible as well as more current times, Mark does a great job of showing the effect that individuals can have if they only step out and seize -- no, make that pursue -- opportunity. Great things happen when people are not afraid to chase lions into pits on snowy days.

One interesting sidenote to the book is the allusion that those folks who tend to make great things happen tend to be a little, shall we say, "eccentric", in the eyes of this world. That is because those individuals are not afraid to fail, not afraid to stand out, not afraid to be different than the rest of the world. Instead of shirking from the lion, they chase it. Folks who do this tend to model it out in all parts of their lives, making you wonder if they were born with this quality.

This book, though, makes readers want to be lion chasers and, if the book inspires folks to do things a little different, to step out there in faith, to jump after opportunities ... well, that is a good thing I believe.

My only regret after reading this book is that I am going to have to change the title of a book I have been working on which was to have been "In The Grass With A Poodle On A Happy Sunshine Day." Oh well.

Gotta run! I have some lions to chase now ...

  posted at 9:44 PM  

Three days later there was a wedding in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there. Jesus and his disciples were guests also. When they started running low on wine at the wedding banquet, Jesus' mother told him, "They're just about out of wine."

Jesus said, "Is that any of our business, Mother—yours or mine? This isn't my time. Don't push me."

She went ahead anyway, telling the servants, "Whatever he tells you, do it."

Six stoneware water pots were there, used by the Jews for ritual washings. Each held twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus ordered the servants, "Fill the pots with water." And they filled them to the brim.

"Now fill your pitchers and take them to the host," Jesus said, and they did.

When the host tasted the water that had become wine (he didn't know what had just happened but the servants, of course, knew), he called out to the bridegroom, "Everybody I know begins with their finest wines and after the guests have had their fill brings in the cheap stuff. But you've saved the best till now!"

This act in Cana of Galilee was the first sign Jesus gave, the first glimpse of his glory. And his disciples believed in him. (John 2:1-11 MSG)

I have often wondered about this, the first of Jesus' recorded miracles. Why did he hesitate?

I wonder if a major point in this story isn't the importance that we all hold as encouragers. Mary knew her son's capabilities. She pushed, maybe even nagged a little like a "good Jewish mother" might because, regardless of what Jesus thought, she knew it was indeed His time.

It makes me wonder who in my life I should be encouraging more in their faith journeys. What opportunities in the lives of others might be missed just because I did not fulfill my role as encourager?

  posted at 7:29 PM  

Cynthia Ware of Digital Sanctuary has a list of 20 great blogs for Christian leaders to read.

  posted at 7:24 PM  

"Criticize by creating." Wow. The book I am now reading ("In A Pit With A Lion...) used this quote, attributing it to Michelangelo. I had never heard that quote before but I find it very interesting.

A commonly heard thing in the workplace is "Don't bring me a problem unless you have a solution." I have used that some at work but then I usually open the door a bit, too, for folks to come discuss the problem even if they do not have a solution -- maybe together we can find one.

This Michelangelo quote is more focused on structures and institutions than processes I think. In essence, it is believed he was saying that, if you don't think something is working right -- if it is not meeting the needs of man -- then create your own "something".

I am not sure that is good advice 100% of the time but it certainly could stand as a sound general rule.

My business is in an industry which is proverbially broken -- the home improvement industry and, specifically, roofing. Our industry generates more complaints to the Better Business Bureau each year than any other industry. That is an ugly reality.

As a business in this industry, though, we can be critical of it or we can just choose to rise above it and create something entirely different -- something devoted to the "delight" of homeowners as a co-worker used to say.

Indeed, let us criticize the current by creating something better for the future.

  posted at 6:10 AM  

Tuesday, August 14, 2007
If you have a guy in your life age 6 to 106 ... or a girl who is fascinated by mechanical things, you must get Crazy Machines software. Evan got this for his birthday and I am telling you, it is a riot. Basically, you can build all these Rube Goldberg mousetrap-like machines and make them do all sorts of crazy things. Believe me, any guy and lots of girls will be fascinated by this.

  posted at 8:20 PM  

Think all of my posts awhile back about Facebook were nonsense? Don't bet on it ...

check this out.

  posted at 10:53 AM  

Generally, I guess that my pride is showing but I consider myself to be a bit of a visionary for the roofing industry. Really, tough , perhaps it isn't so much pride as it is just experience. I am quick to admit that I don't know everything and there is one particular incident that happened a few years ago which was very humbling.

It wasn't that long ago, actually. It was probably 15 years ago and someone asked me if this internet thing that we were all just learning about was ever going to have an impact on our business and the roofing industry.

I laughed. Well, it was probably more like a scoff. I did not see anyway that the internet would ever have a meaningful impact on our business.

Was I ever wrong. Today, we promote by the internet and provide information through it. We accept orders through it and place orders with our vendors. We even transfer computer and telephone services between our own two facilities via microwave and the internet.

So much for that visionary thing.

  posted at 8:46 AM  

It is always an eerie sight. Birds circling overhead. Big birds. Are they hawks? Vultures?

A couple of days ago I saw a spot where maybe seven or eight big hawks were circling. I assumed they were circling over something that was either dead or very close to dead.

Today, I drove by the same spot and counted 40 hawks still circling.

A friend of mine (who is much wiser than me about such things ... okay, about everything) once told me that he does not think that such birds are circling over a carcass. Instead, he feels that they do that over areas where updrafts, perhaps of warmer air, are occurring.

I thought, "Yeah, right".

After some investigation this morning, it turns out he is right.

Below is the official word from the Vulture Society (yes, there really is such a thing). Turns out the birds are probably just sort of lazing around and having fun. Sort of like a weightless chamber for birds.

Would vultures circle a moving object, like a vehicle carrying a dead or dying animal?

Contrary to popular belief, vultures do not circle over dead or dying animals. They soar on thermals of warm, rising air. This allows them to best conserve their energy in flight. After rising on the thermal, they glide as far as possible before they need to gain altitude again.

You will certainly see vultures in the air over a carcass, but their descent is rapid. They will not just hang out in the air looking at it... They want to eat it.

In parts of Asia and Africa, vultures have become very brave and comfortable in the presence of humans. In these areas, they sit around rooftops, markets,and garbage dumps, and have much the same presence among the population as the gulls have among us. In such areas, they will follow carts full of food or garbage.

  posted at 8:28 AM  

As you make your counter-clockwise loop around the Fort Wayne zoo, one of the last things you come to is a pond with a gazebo built over the pond that you must cross over a small bridge to get to.

There are many ducks and geese on the pond and there are little machines that, for a quarter, dispense corn or pellets that can be fed to them. We went through a lot of quarters when we visited.

Of course, these are some fat, lazy ducks and geese. They have learned that they can just stand around all day and be fed. They really don't even have to duck (sorry for the pun), dive or scramble for the food. They just stand there until a piece lands at their webbed feet. Then they bend their neck a bit and scoop it up in their mouth.

As we stood in the gazebo throwing pellets into the pond for the fish, I noticed, a little bit further out from the ducks and the geese, some darkish areas in the pond. Upon a little closer examination, it became apparent that there were a few catfish just under the surface of the water. We remembered from our last visit that catfish like the Goose and Duck Pellets (not that kind of pellet!) just as well as the ducks and geese do so we threw some pellets toward these dark areas in the pond.

As soon as you do this -- bang! -- up from just below the water's surface comes a writhing, excited mass of catfish. I mean a solid mass of fish, scrambling over one another trying to grab the pellets. Unlike the lackadaisical ducks and geese ... the catfish were swarming and fighting to be fed. The more pellets you threw, the more of a frenzy you created. When you quit throwing pellets, it would take a second or two but the frenzy would subside ... until you threw more pellets.


...I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. (John 4:35, NIV)

  posted at 12:05 AM  

Monday, August 13, 2007
Please say a prayer for Lester Joseph, the father of a good friend of mine. Despite overwhelming health problems for 30 years, Mr. Joseph has brought joy to many, myself included. And also to his many grandkids and great garndkids. Always quick with a joke, a kind word, and a twinkle in his eye, Mr. Joseph is in ICU tonight with suspected heart failure.

  posted at 9:41 PM  

Tomorrow, Evan turns nine. Hard to believe. More on that later when I have time.

Today we took a day trip to the Fort Wayne Zoo. This was our second time there. It is one of the neatest zoos I have ever been to. Not that I have been to a huge number of zoos but over the years I have been to quite a few.

First of all, it only cost $21 for us all to get in. Food prices were quite reasonable as well.

Aside from that, the grounds are very well kept and the animal exhibits are all very up-close and personal. Were it not for the watchful eye of the designated kangaroo keeper lady, you could actually try to hitch a ride on a kangaroo if you wanted. I got closer to kangaroos than I ever got when I was in Australia.

Even our young soon-to-be-nine man enjoyed the zoo, looking at each exhibit and helping us follow the map. The zoo is actually laid out so that you can cover it all pretty easily in four hours which is a nice length of time for kids.

Even the largest zoos need to visit this small wonder in Fort Wayne and take a few lessons from the great things they are doing there.

  posted at 9:32 PM  

Sunday, August 12, 2007
When this old world starts getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space
On the roof, it's peaceful as can be
And there the world below can't bother me
Let me tell you now

When I come home feelin' tired and beat
I go up where the air is fresh and sweet (up on the roof)
I get away from the hustling crowd
And all that rat-race noise down in the street (up on the roof)
On the roof, the only place I know
Where you just have to wish to make it so
Let's go up on the roof (up on the roof)

At night the stars put on a show for free
And, darling, you can share it all with me
I keep a-tellin' you

Right smack dab in the middle of town
I've found a paradise that's trouble proof (up on the roof)
And if this world starts getting you down
There's room enough for two
Up on the roof (up on the roof)
Up on the roo-oo-oof (up on the roof)
Oh, come on, baby (up on the roof)
Oh, come on, honey (up on the roof)

Where is your roof? It's a good thing that my involvement in the roofing industry is on the manufacturing end because I really am not fond of heights. It would be better yet if we manufactured materials for flat roofs because I can usually handle those. The pitched ones, though, which seem to present an inordinate risk of sending me tumbling into space with a violent "thud" at the end? Well, those may have offered a place of escape to The Drifters, Carole King, James Taylor and Neil Diamond, but not to me.

But we all need that place of escape, don't we?

I know that I do. As in introvert trying to live out a position of leadership, I hit points where I just want to shut down. My business partner (also an introvert) and I often joke that if, someday, one of us can't find the other, it will probably be because that person will be huddled in a fetal position beneath his desk clutching a copy of the Wall Street Journal and quietly sobbing.

Sometimes life gets to be a bit much.

Hardly fair to the wonderful family I have been blessed with, it's not uncommon for me to come home from work and just really not want to talk to anyone. I do my best to fight my way through that but, often, by the end of the day, I have sensory overload. Whether it's true or just in my imagination, I feel battered and bruised and I just want to go up on my roof.

Do you ever get that way?

I think that, as Christians, we sometimes feel like The Word should be all we need for our comfort and assurance. "Just find some inspirational passages and read them; you'll make it through this, Todd" I have often told myself. But it doesn't work that way.

I need my roof.

The Bible has examples of people seeking those special places of comfort, peace, rest and solace. Those places that become our stronghold of protection and rejuvenation.

David had Ein Gedi, a beautiful spot near the Dead Sea, where he escaped. Sure, he was chased there by a crazed Saul and his warriors but, once he was there, David found Ein Gedi to be "his" roof, I think. Many of the Psalms reference this area's beauty and protection. David felt both the emotional and physical peace of protection there.

Jesus had places he sought, too. After a day of teaching and healing, when I am sure he felt mentally and physically spent, when he was tired of being pressed by the crowds and performing miracles with props as simple as bread and fish, Jesus would escape across the Sea of Galilee, again a beautiful spot ... it became "His" roof. And, of course, the night he came to be face to face with His certain physical doom, he sought out another place of peace -- the Garden of Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives.

For the last few years, my "place" has been what we call the "lake house". Located less than an hour from home, the lake house has become my Ein Gedi -- my "roof". We bought it a few years ago with my parents after my dad suffered a severe stroke and his ability to travel significant distances was diminished. It's a spot that offers natural beauty including the peacefulness of water but it offers so much more. And that "more" is more than just "escape". It is peace and rejuvenation, often a time to re-connect with two of my power sources -- Lisa and Evan. But also a chance to re-connect with my greatest power source -- God -- as the lake house gives this introvert a chance to drown out the noises of this world ... and focus on a peace that is not of this world.

  posted at 6:51 AM  

As I mentioned, this book I am reading is based upon a rather obscure passage from II Samuel in which a man by the name of Benaiah kills a lion. He doesn't kill the lion, though, by trapping it or from a distance. He doesn't kill it because the lion attacks him and he just happens to end up on the lucky end of the encounter. He doesn't kill the lion with the help of a bunch of his warrior buddies. No, he kills the lion because he chases it. He chases it down into a slippery-sloped pit -- a place where only one of them would emerge and common sense says that one probably wouldn't be Benaiah.

Here's another passage from this book:

Lion chasers challenge the status quo. They climb cliffs, move to foreign countries, and build boats in the desert. Lion chasers are often considered crazy, but they are able to do these things because they aren't afraid of uncertainty. They don't need to know what is coming because they know that God knows. They don't need explanations for every disappointment because they know God has a plan. Lion chasers refuse to settle down because they want to experience every divine twist and turn that God has in store for them.

Wow ... this lion chasing requires more than just a bit of courage and faith.

  posted at 6:41 AM  

Saturday, August 11, 2007
A few weeks ago, a bunch of bloggers, primarily women, got together and orchestrated a "summer giveaway". Basically, they all gave something free away to a reader. In order to register, readers had to leave a comment and, at the end of the week, the blogger drew names to find out who won their item.

Lisa gave away a book. A lot of the things given away were pretty "girly" -- smelly stuff and gift certificates for stores I don't frequent. I recall just one male blogger, though, who participated in the giveaway and he, like my wife, gave away a book. He gave away what he described as a "man's book". It was "In A Pit With A Lion On A Snow Day" by Mark Batterson. The sub-title is "How to survive and thrive when opportunity roars."

I registered to win the book. My name wasn't drawn so I did not win the book. But the end result was that Amazon and Mr. Batterson sold an additional copy of the book ... to me.

So that book is my current reading material.

I am not quite half-way through the book. And I have found a number of things to be of interest. Based upon II Samuel 23:21-22, this book is about going after the things that scare us in life. It is about realizing that God doesn't necessarily want us to be on the sidelines all the time. Sometimes he presents us with opportunities for growth that may be cloaked in something very scary or intimidating but we need to consider what we could be missing out on if we stay on the sidelines.

I am thinking about how to apply this to my life. I am a very blessed man -- blessed in so many ways yet my life, like everyone else's, has not been without adversity and troubles. Sometimes I have pursued opportunities through that adversity but sometimes I have stayed back. I wonder what I have missed by doing that.

Let me leave you with a section of this book to consider:

In his "Letters to Malcom," C.S. Lewis said, "If God had granted all the silly prayers I've made in my life, where would I be now?" Lewis went so far as to say that someday we'll be more grateful for our prayers that didn't get answered than the ones that did. The reason for this is simple: Many of our prayers our misguided. We pray for comfort instead of character. We pray for an easy way out instead of the strength to make it through. We pray for no pain, when the result would be no gain. We pray that God will keep us out of pits and away from lions. But if God answered our prayer, it would rob us of our greatest opportunities. Many of our prayers would short-circuit God's plans and purposes for our lives if He answered them. Maybe we should stop asking God to get us out of difficult circumstances and start asking Him what He wants us to get out of those difficult circumstances.

Most of us blame our circumstances when things aren't going well just like we blame the ref when a game isn't going well. We look for some external scapegoat. But maybe our problem isn't our circumstances. Maybe our problem is our perspective.

... God has a three-hundred-and-sixty degree perspective on everything. He considers every contingency. He sees all the way around everything -- every issue, every person, every experience, every problem. Most of us see a very narrow slice of reality. The best and brightest among us might have a one-degree angle of vision. It's like we are looking through a peephole. So why do we assume that what we pray for is always what's best for us? If we could see what God sees, we would pray very different prayers.

... Sometimes an unanswered prayer is God, in His sovereign wisdom, sparing us the pain of unintended consequences. Sometimes God allows what His power could prevent. Most of the time that causes us a great deal of temporal angst, but someday we will owe God as many thank-yous for the prayers He did not answer as the ones He did.

... Maybe we need to quit praying safe prayers.

  posted at 10:36 PM  

Friday, August 10, 2007
LINK HERE for a few notable quotes from Bill Hybels' new book, "Reveal," which focuses on how / where personal spiritual formation occurs. Is it in the church? Check it out and see.

  posted at 5:13 PM  

For a long time, I struggled with the term "emerging" when used in the the context of "the Church". I didn't understand to what it referred. Questions filled my mind like:

What are we trying to emerge from?
Why are we trying to emerge?
What are we emerging to?
Is emerging good or bad?

Over the last couple of years, my mind has started to get around this term and what it means ... and I like it ... a lot.

Scott Hodge, at his blog, posted today on what he means when he uses the word "emerging". It is a great summary of what I have come to understand ... and it is stated so well. Perhaps it will help some others out there deal better with this term.

  posted at 5:04 PM  

Go to Youtube and search for "Akiane" ... you have to check out this 12-year-old child prodigy with visions from God.

  posted at 8:34 AM  

Thursday, August 09, 2007
I had linked a few days ago to Todd Hiestand's blog. I think I stumbled across his blog mainly because we have the same first name. That always catches my eye. Most Todds out there in the world are about the same age as me though this one is a few years younger.

Anyway, Todd and his wife were in Guatemala adopting a little boy whom they had named Mason. Well, Mason is now safely at his new home and has met his big brother, Cole (which happens to be Evan's middle name).

Anyway, LINK HERE to see an update and some great pictures.

  posted at 3:55 PM  

Perry Noble, senior pastor of New Spring Church in North Carolina, has a great post on "laziness" today -- specifically that God does not want us to get lazy.

For me, I don't know that I run a risk of overall laziness but I do run a HUGE risk of letting certain parts of my life overtake me so that I become lazy in some very important areas -- my marriage, my relationship with Evan, my personal relationship with God, my relationship with friends ...

It's a great post by Perry, and his links are good, too. Check it out HERE I pray that I can live it out.

  posted at 8:28 AM  

God is timeless but yet he still desires an intimate relationship with each of us. Until one has experienced God in their life, this is such a difficult thing to comprehend, I think.

  posted at 6:05 AM  

Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Following is a summary of what I saw as the main points to those who posted an answer to this question over at The Friendly Christian site.

(Please keep in mind -- these are not my words; I am only the messenger.)

Some of these comments are what I would call "typical" but a few are truly insightful. All of the comments are things we should take note of.

Christians think they’re better than others because they believe in God; holier than thou attitude; that they have a corner on the truth

Hate others who don’t follow their beliefs or live the same lifestyle (especially in regards to homosexuality)

Christians support hatred, war, and violence against others; double standard

Some fit the stereotype that Christians are mean, bitter people

Creeds and the divinity of Jesus were voted on at one time by the Catholic church (how can you vote on the truth?)

Preach / witness / proselytize / recruit too much

Religion that doesn’t care how “good” you are (works) but rather on “carrying the Jesus card”

Authoritarianism and disturbing obsession with others’ private lives

Was miserable as a Christian – it didn’t “deliver”

God would have to be sadistic and hateful if Hell existed

Non-uniqueness of Christianity in comparison to other religions; plagiarized from earlier mythology

Contradictions in the Bible

Christians desire to influence the government / pass laws that support their beliefs

Conning of gullible and vulnerable individuals (especially in regards to televangelists)

Subverts / ignores science

Disregard for the environment

Pedophile priests

Addiction to controlling things

Viewing death as a celebration

A deity that requires worship and blind faith

Oppression of women / misogynistic

They see professed Christians doing acts of hatred yet other Christians don’t speak against it

Desire to squelch opposing viewpoints

Don’t buy into the idea of original sin and blood sacrifice

Desire to intrude on the bedroom, courtroom, public classroom, operating room and laboratory

Religion of shame, self-degradation and self-hatred

Much preaching is emotional blackmail


Belief that morality only comes from God

Christianity hates the weak (of spirit, faith, etc.)

Christianity accepts of the selfish American lifestyle

Herd mentality

Disregard for logic

  posted at 10:16 PM  

A new blog, The Friendly Christian, has invited folks to comment on what about the word "Christian" might make their stomach turn. The comments received thus far are rather interesting. LINK HERE if you wish.

  posted at 6:15 AM  

A blogger named Hemant Mehta calls himself The Friendly Atheist and he recently "sold his soul" on eBay. The person who bought it asked Hemant to visit several churches and write about his experiences, which he has done now in a book.

I have not read the boook but one quote from it keeps popping up in others' blogs:

Martin Luther King Jr. is said to have oberved that eleven o'clock sunday morning was the most segregated hour in America. Based on the research I did for this book, I would say that still holds true. With very few exceptions, the churches I visited were either black congregations or white ones...You want to reach people like me? Then show me the churches where...I can see a rainbow of people in the crowd instead of a sea of whiteness or, in another neighborhood, a sea of blackness...I'd love to see Christian faith leading to an openness and equality, respect for people no matter their gender or skin color or language or culture. Think about this: atheist gateherings are often a mixture of everyone in society...Does it surprise you that secular people are leading the way in accepting others, no matter their individual differences?

Our church struggles (not sure that is the right word but it is how I view it at the moment) with being pretty much all white. Part of that is the demographics of the community we live in. We cover a wide gamut in other demographic respects but the vast majority of us are white.

I think that all involved in leadership at the church would like to see greater diversity as far as race but it seems to be a tough thing to achieve.

Perhaps out of our current visioning process we will become even more missional in this quest.

How does your church address or encourage diversity?

  posted at 6:06 AM  

Tuesday, August 07, 2007
If you know that God brought you there, then you can trust Him to hold you while you're there.

  posted at 8:59 PM  

Check out this article.

  posted at 8:58 PM  

The road can be tough, and often we make it hard on ourselves, but God ultimately will hold those who humbly hold Him in their hearts.

  posted at 8:37 PM  

Ever since he was very young, when Evan would ask me one of those "difficult" questions about why things are certain ways in the world, my answer would be "It's all about marketing." Most of the time, my answer rang true. He has heard this line so often from me that I have even herad him say it to others.

Now, a STUDY has been done that shows that when kids see the McDonalds golden arches on food wrapping, they begin to salivate. Not only that, but they perceive that the food inside those wrappers tastes better than the same food inside plain wrappers.

Wow. Fascinating ... NOT!

McDonalds has worked hard for years to bring consistency to the product they deliver. While that product may not be haute cuisine, it does possess a certain predictability and consistency.

The fact that humans can resemeble Pavlov's dogs when they see something that they associate with this consistency is no surprise at all. The fact that salivation improves perceived taste is no surprise either.

Those who are interpreting this study are trying to make McDonalds out as being the evil empire because of what this study showed.

That is ridiculous. Who paid for this study? (The tree-kicking people from Wendy's perhaps?)

McDonald's simply has a well-branded, identifiable product and people associate that product with a taste which they crave and makes them salivate.

My grandmother's raisin cookies did the same thing.

Was she part of the evil empire?

McDonald's or Grandma ... It's all about consistency and branding.

Yes, Evan, once again, it's all about marketing.

  posted at 5:54 AM  

Monday, August 06, 2007
Verses 3 - 11

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This section lists several attributes of the life experiencing the indwelling Christ. They remind me a bit of the Fruits of the Spirit from Galations.

I am unclear whether these "fruits" from II Peter are to be somewhat progressive -- one leading to another. In my Bible, I see that I have previously marked them as being progressive but when I look at other translations, I am not sure that is what Peter intended. Actually, now that I re-read them, I don't think they were meant to be linear in that fashion but they still make for quite the list.

Faith ... goodness ... knowledge ... self-control ... perseverance ... godliness ... brotherly kindness ... love.

You know what ruins all of those though? Being judgmental and having a closed mind. And goodness knows I can fall into that trap. As soon as I close my mind and become judgmental, though, so many of these "fruits" fly out the window.

Unfortunately, an individual or a church that is caught up in religiosity and overt piousness becomes judgmental and (alluding to one of Todd Agnew's songs here) seeks to avoid stains on the carpet. But goodness, godliness, kindness and love ... those all, if practiced, will encourage stains on the carpet.

I pray that, at the end of my days on this earth, I will have very stained carpet.

(Okay, this is one really weird post but hopefully you get the gist of what I am attempting to say. If not, let me know and we can discuss it over a Diet Coke someday.)

  posted at 9:35 PM  

While I have yet to read a complete work by Merton, I am fond of his quotes. Here is a quote from his book The Seven Storey Mountain.

"In one sense we are always traveling, and traveling as if we did not know where we were going.
In another sense we have already arrived.
We cannot arrive at the perfect possession of God in this life, and that is why we are traveling and in darkness. But we already possess Him by grace, and therefore, in that sense, we have arrived and are dwelling in the light.
But oh! How far have I to go to find You in Whom I have already arrived!

  posted at 11:18 AM  

David Rudd has a great perspective today on how to see the blessings in your life.

  posted at 10:56 AM  

Sunday, August 05, 2007
Does anyone else have certain faux pas in their history that, hard as you try, just keep lingering in your memory bank, sending shivers down your spine whenever they are brought to the surface? I committed one a few weeks ago when we had someone different than usual lead worship at church and I complimented and thanked the wrong person after church. For some reason I always get these two women confused and darned if I didn't pick a really bad day to get them confused that time. Well, she is leading worship again today ... and I am not saying a word to anybody after church.

So, do you have any moments of embarrassment in your dark history? Care to share them? If others share, I may just share one or two more ... maybe.

  posted at 9:43 AM  

I don't know these people but it's been great following Todd Hiestand's blog about his family's adoption of a little boy from Guatemala. We have some good friends waiting on their son from Guatemala right now. How exciting ... how bittersweet ... how beautiful.

  posted at 7:47 AM  


My favorite cereal as a kid was Honeycomb. (My mother was far less picky back then about what she'd let her own kids eat than how she is with her grandson today, much to Evan's broccoli-filled, sugar-deprived chagrin!) I haven't had this sweet goodness in probably 25 years but have been noticing that they are advertising it as now tasting even better. So, a couple of weeks ago, Lisa, Evan and I did grocery shopping on the weekend (Lisa normally does it during the week ... probably precisely because of things like this) and I grabbed a box of Honeycomb. I remember how, as a kid, some of the cereal pieces would be a little more yellow in color than others and they'd always be sweeter than the others. The pieces seem more consistent now ... and smaller. Or else my mouth has gotten bigger. (No comments on that one, please.) But, for the big question, do they actually taste better? I have to admit, comparing them now as a bald chubby middle-aged guy with razor stubble and morning breath to how they were when I was a skinny, pajama-clad kid ... they don't taste quite as sweet. Oh well. It's been fun anyway. And maybe I can try them again in another 25 years ... as long as my mother isn't watching.

  posted at 7:37 AM  

Saturday, August 04, 2007
Jim Palmer, the author of "Divine Nobodies," had a childhood that was much worse than just difficult. He was abused and discarded. He grew up seeing himself as being the cause of all the pain in his family. In his mind, he was bad, unloveable. By the world's standards, Jim Palmer would have grown up to be bitter and mean. He would have repeated the treatment he received from his parents and brother. History does repeat itself. He would have grown up measuring himself in the eyes of the world but always feeling like that beleaguered child -- responsible and full of fault. He would have made himself feel better only by pushing others down -- the ultimate in "ego". History repeating itself.

But Jim Palmer found God. And this set him on a different path. He became a pastor -- a superstar of sorts -- a "golden boy" and sought-after speaker.

But the scared, unloveable child remained ... especially when everything he knew of this world as he followed God came crashing down.

Through a series of events and stories, though, Jim Palmer found something more than God. He found Jesus. He found Jesus not in superstar pastors and incredible speakers but in everyday folks. Everyday folks who are disciples of the man who showed love to the "unloveable". Everyday folks who know the reality of sacrifice. Every day folks who know that they must become less in order for Jesus to be more.

"Divine Nobodies" is Jim Palmer's story of finding more than just God. It is his story of finding Jesus.

And what an incredible, well-written, and honest story it is.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. It is a great step on the journey available to us all to discover what it means to be a disciple -- something very different from what much of the world's perception is of Christianity. In this book's pages you will meet and discover the greatest man who ever lived ... by reading rich stories of the indwelling Christ.

  posted at 8:37 PM  

CLICK HERE for a great post by Robert Gelinas about Billy Graham and Martin Luther King Jr.

I have seen my own family in three generations make a pretty strong shift in its view of race. It is amazing to me that some folks are still caught up in tired, old, and completely wrong attitudes.

  posted at 6:08 AM  

Friday, August 03, 2007
Not really. But it made for a good title when I have just returned from a trip to New Orleans. It was my first time down there since Katrina. I saw mainly the airport, I-10 and the downtown area. I saw a little bit of the French Quarter and also some of what I think might have been the ninth ward when I overshot my exit off of the freeway. Generally, the areas I saw showed little remnants of Katrina damage ... except for that ninth ward area. There, I saw house after house that appeared to have just been abandoned. I did see some nice rebuilding though with some new housing going in that was very attractive. Still below sea level but very attractive.

Many of the people you see in New Orleans just look very tired. I cannot imagine the trauma of all they have been through.

I was with a group that stayed at the Loews Hotel in downtown New Orleans. The hospitality and caring attitude of the folks working there was noting shy of incredible and spectacular. Looking for a place to stay in NOLA? Definitely try the Loews Hotel.

When you fly into New Orleans, you fly into the Louis Armstrong Airport. Ever since my days in high school jazz band, I have had a passion for blues and traditional jazz. So, as I left Enterprise Car Rental, (also very nice people though they tried to give me a quad cab Dodge Ram with a broken door handle so I ended up in a little Mazda 3 without power windows or locks at the same price) I started scanning the radio stations for some traditional New Orleans music. There is something about the honesty, depth and transparecy of jazz and blues music and lyrics that I love. And the first song I found was no exception ... its main line was something like "I've got me a fat woman and she's lovin' me all night long." Nothing puts a smile on your face quite like a lyric like that.

When I flew home from New Orleans, I was really missing New Orleans. So I played my Jonny Lang Turn Around CD as I drove home. I have plugged this CD before and I will do it again now. Jonny Lang's lryics are soulful and deep ... authentically pulled from his life of a fast rise to stardom and then a near-crash of self-destruction.

One of my favorite songs from this CD is "I'm Only A Man". While I encourage you to buy the CD and hear it all, here are the lyrics to that one song.

I used to live my life in fear
Was worried all the time
From waking up to laying down
I had no peace of mind
The world became a darkened place
A struggle without end
Although bitter times those were
The days that I had began to understand
I was only a man

I grew up singing songs in church
With questions in my mind
Then turned my back and ran away
From God who gave me life
Then one night his presence fell
I wept and shook and then
I fell down and cried, Dear Jesus, rescue me again
I understand I am only a man

And He said, What will it be now?
Will you choose me or keep swimming up stream now?
I've been inside your head hearing you scream out.
Well here I am, just take my hand and I'll take out
All of the pain and all of the fear
All of the fear

I'll give you my burdens (I'll give you peace)
All of my desires (I'll give you what you need)
Oh, what about these chains, Lord? (I'll set you free)
But they're so heavy (Lay them at my feet)
I'll lay them at your feet
Just promise you won't leave (I'll never leave)
So where do I go from here, Lord? (Just follow me)
(Just follow me)
I'll follow you (Just follow me) wherever you lead
Wherever you lead, wherever you lead

  posted at 9:11 AM  

Who Am I?

Todd M


An ordinary guy. A wife I love very much. A great son. Wonderful friends. A metal roofing business and a sales training business. A loving church family. A few trade associations. A Christian school. And a four-pound poodle. Just trying to follow God and see where He leads.

My Complete Profile

Buy My Book! (please)
  • Trying To Lose My "Self" In Israel

  • Past Posts

  • Great Blogs
  • Dan Gildner
  • Hope Shifts
  • Trey Morgan
  • Hey Jules
  • DadBloggers
  • David Porath
  • Antique Mommy
  • Tony Morgan
  • Chris Reeder
  • Gary Lamb
  • Perry Noble
  • David Foster
  • Scott Hodge
  • Mark Meyer
  • Donald Miller
  • Sidney First Leadership Community
  • Irenic Thoughts
  • Sidney First UMC

  • Archives
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • January 2010
  • March 2010
  • April 2010
  • June 2010
  • September 2010
  • July 2011

  • Gargantuan List of Methodist Bloggers

    Credits and Links


    Christian Blogger Network