Monday, March 31, 2008
I SAMUEL 12 (The Message)
Ain't I Samuel 12 just the way life goes? We want God, we seek God, we find God. But then we start to want more than God and, in that search, we distance ourselves from Him.

You know those times that inevitably come around when you just feel "distant" from God? Well, maybe you don't but I sure do.

I was just thinking this morning as I was praying and, hard as it is to admit, it is never that God has distanced Himself from me. It is always that I have distanced myself from Him through my thoughts, my actions, and/or my lack of spiritual discipline.

I Samuel 12 substantiates this. God is always there yearning for me but yet He allows me free will and, when I do not use that free will to continually deepen my relationship with Him ... well, that is when that old "distant" feeling starts creeping in.

And that is when I experience the pain of continuing to try to do it my way until I realize that all I really need to do is recalibrate my thoughts, actions, and disciplines to focus on Him.

  posted at 5:58 AM  

Saturday, March 29, 2008
I stayed overnight in Memphis recently on business. It was a pretty nice hotel. I wasn't paying the tab so that made it very nice.

Anyway, as I got out of the shower in the morning, I realized there was water all over the floor. Somehow it had sprayed around or out of or over or through the shower curtain and I had essentially flooded the bathroom. I had visions of water dripping into the room below me. So, I quickly took my towel and threw it down on the floor to dry things up the best I could.

Now, mind you, I personally was still very wet. But I figured I could find another towel and dry myself off.


I could not find anything except a little hand towel. That worked well ... for my left forearm.

The rest of me remained wet. So, I had no choice but to "air dry".

If you were in Memphis recently and happened to see through the crack of a hotel room window to see a naked fat bald guy leaping around his room waving his arms, well, that would have been me. And I apologize.

  posted at 7:37 AM  

Well, it turns out that former Soviet Union president Gorbachev perhaps has not really converted to Christianity as I had read and written here a few days ago. Read here.

  posted at 6:34 AM  

Friday, March 28, 2008
I had a co-worker email me last night saying that he had just landed from one of the most turbulent flights he had ever been on. And he has flown a fair amount. In fact, he himself is a pilot.

So, that reminded me ...

I am not what you might call a "road warrior" but I would guess that, over the last 25 or so years, I have been on at least a thousand different flights. I remember back when I first started flying a fair amount. I thought that I would always be able to remember every flight I was ever on. I got up to about flight #30 and decided "the heck with that!"

I really only have one flight that stands out in my mind as having severe turbulence. Pilots I believe rate turbulence severity on a scale of 0 to 6. If this wasn't a 6 or at least a 5.9999999, I would be amazed.

The flight was taking me from Milan, Italy to Frankfurt, Germany I believe. I think it was Air Italia to the best of my recollection. Air Italia is pretty top notch. If I know my geography, we would have been flying over the Alps. All I really remember is that the air was really quite clear (clear air turbulence is often the worst I have been told) and I could look down and see a bunch of really rough snow-covered mountains. If we crashed into them, I figured we would not be found for days or perhaps even years.

It was a two-engine jet. Not a real big plane but decent-sized. The flight was packed. I suppose there were 75 of us on there. There was a handful of other US travelers but most of the travelers were over-sized Italian women the best I could tell.

We had been in the air for a little while. In fact, they had just served us breakfast when we hit turbulence that was unlike anything I had ever before experienced. Most turbulence consists of just some gentle rocking side to side or maybe a little bouncing. This was like the plane was smashing into a brick wall ... again and again and again. We'd hit this wall head-on and then bounce backward, just to return and hit the wall again. When the plane would bounce back, it would go sideways.

The pilots didn't say much. That was okay with me. I sort of wanted them to concentrate on flying the plane. And, when they did say something, it was in Italian. They spoke very good Italian. I don't.

I kept thinking that surely we would change altitude or direction to try to get out of the turbulence but they just kept pounding into it. Finally, after about 45 minutes, they turned to the right and we got out of it.

During the turbulence, there were people crying, screaming, and shouting the Rosary over and over again. They were a bit distracting but it was nice to know that I wasn't the only one who was convinced we were going to crash into the mountains and never be found until we had either died from the impact or frozen to death.

But, in the midst of this, I had my own problems going on, besides trying to contain my breakfast. I had a window seat that morning. I was in the very back of the plane and at one point the turbulence caused my window to fall apart. The estucheon plate surrounding it popped out and suddenly I had a window assembly coming toward me which I speared with my left arm, catching the frame pieces and the inner plexiglass.

I realize now how ridiculous it was but the only thing I could think was that I had to get the window put back together or else I was going to be sucked out through it. (I was much skinnier then.) So in the midst of the smashing and bouncing action, I was struggling to play airplane manufacturer and re-assemble my window. I did get it put back together eventually.

When we landed in Frankfurt, many people came down the stairs from the plane and immediately kissed the ground. I just kept thinking that I could not possibly get on another plane to continue my travel home -- across the Atlantic in fact. But I wasn't sure what my options were. I kept thinking I could stow away on a freighter ship but that might take me weeks to get home.

So, I got on my next flight and flew the rest of the way home, arriving in Detroit in the middle of a major snowstorm which is, of course, a story all its own.

  posted at 5:11 AM  

Thursday, March 27, 2008
Who cares what the lyrics are "really" about, my earlier post about Evan and the Tooth Ferret reminded me of one of my favorite childhood songs, Puff the Magic Dragon. Anyone who has ever been a parent or had a special child in their life knows the pain that's in these lyrics.

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee

Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff,
and brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff. Oh

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee

Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail
Jackie kept a lookout perched on Puff's gigantic tail,
Noble kings and princes would bow whene'er they came,
Pirate ships would lower their flags when Puff roared out his name. Oh

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee

A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, Puff could not be brave,
So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave. Oh

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee

  posted at 11:03 PM  

I read recently where a Starbucks barista ended up donating a kidney to one of her regular customers. She didn't even know her all that well when she volunteered to be tested for a match. But then she tested as a good match and, well, the rest is history.

It is amazing what happens in community. You begin to see an inherent care and love in people. Yes, this can also be a manifest fruit of the spirit but this sense of belonging in community is, I think, a gift to all mankind.

What is, for you, the enemy of community? What prevents you from reaching out to others the way that your heart calls you to?

For me, it is busy-ness. Things get hectic, I get that deer-in-the-headlights look, and community is far beyond the stretch of my reach. Pity, really.

Again, what is your enemy of community? What would prevent you from giving up a kidney?

  posted at 10:43 PM  


Evan lost a baby tooth last evening. It was the first one he had lost in a long time. With all of his previous lost baby teeth, we had a special visitor come to our house. The Tooth Ferret would come that night and bring him a dollar per tooth.

But this time, he refused the Tooth Ferret. Fact is, he never believed there really was a Tooth Ferret but this time he officially shed his boyhood. There would be no more Tooth Ferret for him. And no more sneaking into his bedroom and hoping he doesn't wake up for me.

I will miss that whiskery and rascally little ferret.

  posted at 10:32 PM  


Caught by my spam filter today was an email from "Abe Butcher" who described herself as a "nice girl who is bored and would like to get to know me better." Um, yeah, I think I will pass on that. I keep picturing a lady that looks like Abe Vigoda and carries an axe.

  posted at 8:17 AM  

It's difficult for me to think of the Egg McMuffin as having an "inventor" but I just read where the inventor of the Egg McMuffin has passed away. It reminded me of the sermon we heard last weekend when the preacher talked about how we all have an expiration date on this earth. It is going to happen ... just like it has to happen that I need to find some time between now and April 15 to do our taxes (I hope I don't die first) ... but it's going to happen ... we all have an expiration date.

Anyway ... what are we going to do with our lives? What legacy will we leave? Inventing the Egg McMuffin is an interesting legacy to have. Sort of cool in a way. He certainly touched a lot of lives and will go on touching lives, bringing morning happiness to millions each day.

  posted at 6:14 AM  

how proud I am of our son? He recently participated in a Math Olympics competition in which he took a test in Math Reasoning against other top students his age from other schools. He came in second but only missed two questions, something which the scorers said is normally never achieved and would normally always be first place ... except one other student got all of the questions correct. Kudos to her! But I am still proud of our son who, more and more seems like a little adult these days and less like a little kid.

  posted at 6:05 AM  

I stole the below from ... my favorite online daily devotional.

And coming near, his disciples awakened Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing.” Matthew 8:25

Perishing – Do you realize that we are in the boat with Yeshua? If the boat sinks, He sinks with us. That’s what Paul had in mind when he said that if the Christ isn’t raised from the dead, we are the most miserable of all. If the boat sinks, we all go down.

The disciples didn’t see the irony of their situation that day on the sea of Galilee. Of course the waves were crashing. Of course the boat was being tossed back and forth. But Jesus was sleeping on the deck. Doesn’t that strike you as a bit odd? If the storm was so bad that the disciples thought they would drown, how can Jesus be sleeping through it? And when they wake Him, don’t they perceive that He is in just as much danger as they are? The whole story is strange. Jesus doesn’t act like we would act. He is unconcerned by the circumstances. What the disciples failed to grasp is that if they are in the boat with Jesus, they are just fine.

These men plead with Jesus. “Apollumetha!” (in Greek). It’s a verb that means “to destroy, to lose, to perish,” but with the added emphasis (apo) of emotional terror. We would say, “Lord, we’re going to die!” In fact, the same verb is used to talk about eternal death in the gospels. From the disciples’ point of view, things are getting worse by the minute. They might have said to themselves, “What’s the matter with him? How can he sleep at a time like this? Doesn’t he know how serious this is?” That sounds like dozens of times that I have been in the boat on the rough seas with Yeshua. I pled with Him to take a closer look at my situation. “Lord, don’t you know how desperate this is? Look at all those dark clouds. Look at that lightning.” I grip His arm. “Lord, don’t you know we’re going to die?”

Pretty funny, isn’t it? I mean, here I am in the boat with the God of the universe in human form. I’m riding the waves with the One Who made the sea, the wind, the lightning and the thunder. He’s not one bit afraid. I’m standing right next to Him. Do I really think He’s going to let the boat sink under us?

The lesson is obvious. Circumstances do not dictate the outcome of life. Relationship does. If I am truly in the boat with Jesus, I have nothing to fear. We are riding the waves together. The only time I need be afraid is when I am not in the boat with Him.

Jesus’ response to all this terror is so typical of God. He makes a joke. “You little-faiths! Why are you so upset? I’m right here with you. It’s no problem.”

Every day is a boat ride on the high seas. The only thing that matters is your companion. All the rest is just water off a duck’s back.

  posted at 6:03 AM  

Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Yes, I am addicted to American Idol. My top three right now, in order of preference:

David Cook
Carly Smithson
David Archuleta

If you did not see the show tonight, be sure to go to YouTube and look up David Cook's performance of Billie Jean. Yes, Michael Jackson's Billie Jean but be prepared for an icredible twist.

  posted at 9:57 PM  

Lisa, Evan and I were out of town over Easter weekend. I know, I know ... what an odd time of year to take a vacation but we needed some time away and Evan's "spring break" (minimal though it is) surrounded the weekend.

We went to Nashville, Tennessee. I have never spent much time in Nashville so it was a fun place to go for me. We didn't do a whole lot. Stayed at a nice new Hampton Inn where we had a suite so we had plenty of room. Unfortunately, the windows or walls were very thin so we heard road noise all night. Lisa and Evan used earplugs. My earholes are too big for earplugs.

We went to the Lane Motor Museum which was a fascinating place with amny very rare and exotic cars. We also visited Andrew Jackson's home, The Hermitage. A huge amount of money was obviously spent on restoring it. We ate at a mongolian grill (not as good as BD's in Dayton) and also a pretty famous place called the Loveless Cafe which was very cool. We drove by The Parthenon and also ate at Hard Rock.

For Sunday, we searched pretty hard to find a church. After web searches and recommendations from friends, we nailed it down to four possible selections. One was the Cowboy Church which apparently has a very country twist to it. It is headed up by a husband-wife preaching team and she is one of Johnny Cash's sisters. We also looked at Highland Park Church which promotes that you can wear jeans there but other than that, we didn't see anything real remarkable to it. One of our other considerations was a place called The Gathering which meets in a theatre and promotes itself as a church for the unreligious. I really liked the idea of going there but it seemed maybe a little too "out there" to take the family so ...

our choice was The People's Church in Franklin, TN. The senior pastor is Rick White. This is a mega mega church. They made us feel welcome as we entered the lobby and, later, the sanctuary. They had 21 people on the platform for their worship team. They had three projection screens but the real cool thing was a group of 20-some video monitors that sort of hung in mid air above the back of the platform. Their pastor was humorous and engaging. His message was good but not overly memorable. I could listen to him regularly though.

I was surprised by how growing the entire Nashville area was ... and all quite upscale. It seems like a nice place to live that has a relatively mild climate.

  posted at 8:57 PM  

I SAMUEL 11 (The Message)
Saul takes upon himself the mantle of leader.

  posted at 5:28 AM  

Monday, March 24, 2008
The following is from

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

Power – Mike Yaconelli calls it “happy terror.” He suggests that when we follow Jesus, it is thrilling and terrifying at the same time. His comment is insightful. Did you think that God’s gift of power (dynamis) removes your fear? Nope! Life is still terrifying. Bad things can still happen. You are still not in control. God’s power does not change the structure of consequences in the fallen world. Power does not replace fear. Power overcomes fear. The fearfulness that resides in my soul is simply part of the human condition. As long as I am in this world, I will experience fear. But, as Jesus said, “Be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.”

My Twelve-Step friends remind me that fear is False Evidence Appearing Real. That’s what I need to know. The feeling of fear is real, but the evidence that supports the fear is false. I really feel it, but it has no substantial reality to it. Why? Because God loves me. Therefore, He gives me the power to overcome my fear. The thrill is knowing that God always arrives on time. The terror is in not knowing how He will arrive. Life with God is blessed uncertainty.

When I abandon my life to Jesus, I opt for unanticipated surprises. Oh, that doesn’t mean that my life will always be in the eggbeater. Life still has its general orderliness as a result of God’s common grace. God still sends the rain on the just and the unjust. The sun still comes up in the morning. But abandonment to Jesus means that I let go of my expectation of orderliness. I am not surprised when the eggbeater takes over. In fact, because God promises power to overcome, I look forward to the moments of blessed chaos as opportunities to see what God will do next. Now you know why James can say, “Count it joy when . . .” We couldn’t possible count trials and tribulations as joyful unless we knew God’s power is peeking around the corner.

Think of it from a Hebrew perspective. Genesis tells me God loves His creation. Exodus tells me God is in control of history. Leviticus tells me God provides for my guilt. Numbers tells me God guides my choices. Deuteronomy tells me God rewards my obedience. All the rest tells me that I can’t manage on my own and that following Him is the only sane thing to do. Then Jesus comes to tell me that He will never leave me, that He has overcome my enemy and that I can join Him to fulfill God’s mission. What else is there to worry about?

False evidence confuses my perception of reality. That’s why I can’t trust myself. When God says that He gives me His power to overcome my cowardice and apprehension, it’s the truth. But it’s not my power. It’s God’s gift. It arrives with His blessing bearing the hallmarks of His character. It’s dynamite in the hands of the follower of the Way, able to clear all kinds of barricades and obstacles. But it only works according to His character, as the next two words will show.

Life in the eggbeater is the perfect place to light a fuse.

  posted at 7:42 AM  

I SAMUEL 10 (The Message)
Saul was reluctant to realize and accept the fact that He had been chosen by God. How ironic that, when he was first publicly called to this position, he was found hiding among the baggage.

Sort of sounds like the place where we often what to stay when God is calling us to something greater, doesn't it? It's safer to stay hidden amongst our baggage.

  posted at 7:36 AM  

Sunday, March 23, 2008
I SAMUEL 9 (The Message)
Don't ever say that God doesn't know good story. This chapter is better than any episode of "Lost".

  posted at 7:54 AM  

Saturday, March 22, 2008
What do you think? Could Lazarus have been the same after Jesus raised him from the dead? I mean, he'd been chosen to be a miracle -- a precursor of what was to come for Jesus ... and for us. Can you even think of returning to your previous life after something like that?

At the moment Lazarus awoke, dressed in his burial cloths, everything really was different. Life was new. He had a second chance. But what did he make of it? Do you ever wonder?

I really detest butterfly analogies but does the butterfly ever yearn to return to the cocoon, either out of pure habit or perhaps out of a desire for a return to what is comfortable -- what it has known so well for so long?

Can you come back from the dead and still be the same?

Even with God and with a change in our heart, it's more than just a little tough to change 100% and permanently. We still have free will ... it is mainly a sense of gratitude that maintains our transformation.

But human nature is not gracious. Human nature is self-centered and carries a feeling of entitlement.

Surely, even with the miracle that was borne in him, Lazarus still found humanity calling him back. (And he was presumably a pretty good guy even before he was chosen to be a miracle!)

Does the butterfly feel entitled to go back to the cocoon, even for one more rest or one more period of escape from living a life that, while it is a life of gratitude, must still face a world that is dirty, ugly, and corrupt?

With Jesus’ resurrection, we have the opportunity to put our past behind us. That's really what the resurrection offers us ... the opportunity to never again view things through the same screen or process life through the same filter. It is a gift of life restored more to what God intended rather than a life that is soggy and tainted through with human nature. Having an opportunity like that is almost unimaginable. To one who is floating in their own humanity, life normally just doesn't give you second chances like that.

But humanity still calls us back. We screw up again and, quite unfortunately, again.

And, weird as it may seem, His grace and His promise cover us.

So, painful though it is, we reach a point of brokenness, hopefully not as severe as the one that first brought us salvation, and we presume to pray for our own return to the cross, hoping to die to ourselves a bit more. While the cocoon maybe held its moments of comfort, we still know that it wasn't real -- it wasn't what God intended for us. So, this time, we hope for a completely restorative resurrection that will leave us permanently beyond our humanity.

But once again we screw up and grace covers us. We seek the cocoon during tough times, just as the restored Lazarus may have said "I just wish I was dead" during the gritty reality of life.

But while Lazarus's resurrection reminds us of the reality of our humanity, Jesus's resurrection brings us hope. His grace brings us another chance.

What did Lazarus do when he came back from the dead? What will I do? Did he return to the grave? Will I? And, if I do, what will come next?

Grace is the one thing we're promised. And, sadly, sometimes the thing we take most for granted ... at least in terms of it being offered to us.

What can I commit to this Easter to hopefully assure my own permanent resurrection?

The pathway to complete restoration and a loss of our humanity starts only with a return to the cross.

  posted at 9:55 PM  

Friday, March 21, 2008
I SAMUEL 8 (The Message)
Have you ever asked for something, received it, and then realized it wasn't really what you wanted? I think we have all done that. There's great "story" in that. Especially if we later turn things back over to the one who can delivered us from our own self-inflicted bondage.

  posted at 5:30 AM  

Thursday, March 20, 2008
Read here to find out what is going on these days at Starbucks.

  posted at 5:26 AM  

Which television cartoon series has pretty much always had this line (or something very similar) in every episode? (By the way, it was pretty much my favorite cartoon while I was growing up.)

"And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those meddling kids!"

  posted at 5:19 AM  

I SAMUEL 7 (The Message)
Before they could really know God, before they could really know the power of God in their lives, the Israelites had to give up their false gods of this world. Wow. Sounds familiar.

  posted at 5:11 AM  

Even though his name may mean almost nothing to those in their 20s or younger today, former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev seems to have come out of the closet ... and acknowledged his Christianity.

Link here for the story.

  posted at 5:07 AM  

Saturday, March 15, 2008
He was a little over 6’ I suppose. Always stood up straight. Pencil mustache. His hair was graying and thinning -- slicked back over the top of his head – but he had a warmth and charm about him that would make women swoon and men want to hear his stories. You could tell he’d been around. He went by the name of Wes Livingston when I knew him.

Remember Ali Hakim from the Musical “Oklahoma”? By all accounts, that is the best way I know to describe Mr. Livingston. A confidence man, scam artist, two bit peddling thief, riverboat gambler, and opportunistic drifter. Depending upon which way his life might take him, he would sell ice to the Eskimo, snake oil to the snake, whiskey to the drunk, or salvation to the sinner.

I met him while I was still in college. I knew exactly what he was but, still, he had charisma … he showed a genuine interest in others. You couldn’t help but be drawn into him. It made you feel good somehow to be around him.

I often wonder what happened to him. That was over 20 years ago when I first met him and he was in his 70s or even early 80s then so I doubt he’s around anymore. He had family and they all seemed to always be fighting their own demons, looking for this tall man with the pencil mustache to bail them out. And bail them out he would, going from gig to gig looking to pick up a few bucks … or a lot … to pass long to those who needed him.

I met him when he was selling roofing to homeowners who I am sure would be as enamored to him as any of us. I, on the other hand, was selling roofing to him. He unfortunately did not care much about getting the roofing installed properly. I still clean up the occasional botched job with which his name is associated, even all these years later.

But I remember him and somehow I am glad I knew him. It may not be financially but somehow my life is richer, albeit perhaps a bit seedier, because I knew Wes. I hope that he is spending a peaceful eternity.

  posted at 8:12 AM  

Wednesday, March 12, 2008
I took our four pound dog outside on her leash the other night in order that she could "do her thing". Getting a bit older these days, she often does not see other dogs and animals around our neighborhood but, this night, she saw a cat or something way way way across the street and she immediatly took off like a rocket to chase it, eventually nearly choking herself when she hit the end of her leash.

She didn't show a lot of restraint, kindness or grace. Instinct kicked in and she immediately wnated to be all over the things that she saw and didn't like. It was invading her territory, threatening her dogdom, and she didn't like it one bit.

How often is that me? I see something I don't like and I jump all over it. I want to quench it, squash it down, annihilate it. And then I hit the end of my leash.


This four pound poodle, and God, have a lot to teach me.

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?

My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.

This isn't the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God's kingdom.

But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original. (Galatians 5:13-26, The Message)

  posted at 6:10 AM  

I SAMUEL 6 (The Message)
The Philistines went from thinking that they had it all made because they held the ark of the covenant to realizing that they needed to give God their best, regardless, even if their best was gold statues of rats and tumors (which, I believe, would actually have been hemorrhoids.

In any event, back to recent discussions I have been involved with concerning "worship," "worship" is when you're giving God your best, knocking it out for Him, not just on Sunday mornings, but all the time, and no matter where you are at.

  posted at 5:54 AM  

Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Chris's sermon at church this past Sunday was on "Worship". Our small group discussed it last night. Good stuff.

Here is an article by Rick Warren on Worship which I found on the internet. Again, good stuff.

You were planned for God's pleasure. The moment you were born into the world, God was there as an unseen witness, smiling at your birth. He wanted you alive, and your arrival gave him great pleasure. God did not need to create you, but he chose to create you for his own enjoyment. You exist for his benefit, his glory, his purpose and his delight.

Bringing enjoyment to God, living for his pleasure, is the first purpose of your life. When you fully understand this truth, you will never again have a problem with feeling insignificant. It proves your worth. If you are that important to God, and he considers you valuable enough to keep with him for eternity, what greater significance could you have?

The Bible says, "Because of his love God had already decided that through Jesus Christ he would make us his children -- this was his pleasure and purpose" (Ephesians 1:5, TEV).

We often forget that God has emotions too. He feels things very deeply. The Bible tells us that God grieves, gets jealous and angry, and feels compassion, pity, sorrow and sympathy as well as happiness, gladness and satisfaction. God loves, delights, gets pleasure, rejoices, enjoys and even laughs!

Bringing pleasure to God is called worship. The Bible says, "The Lord is pleased with those who worship him and trust his love" (Psalm 147:11, CEV). Anything you do that brings pleasure to God is an act of worship. Like a diamond, worship is multifaceted. Anthropologists have noted that worship is a universal urge, hard-wired by God into the very fiber of our being -- an inbuilt need to connect with God.

Worship is as natural as eating or breathing. If we fail to worship God, we always find a substitute, even if it ends up being ourselves. The reason God made us with this desire is that he desires worshipers! Jesus said, "The Father seeks worshipers" (John 4:23, paraphrased).

Depending on your church background, you probably need to expand your understanding of the real meaning of "worship." You may think of church services with singing, praying and listening to a sermon. Or you may think of ceremonies, candles and communion. Worship can include these elements, but worship is far more than these expressions. Worship is a lifestyle.

Worship is more than music. For many people, worship is just a synonym for music. They say, "At our church we have the worship first, and then the teaching." This is a big misunderstanding. Every part of a church service is an act of worship: praying, Scripture reading, singing, confession, silence, being still, listening to a sermon, taking notes, giving an offering, baptism, communion, signing a commitment card and even greeting other worshipers.

Actually, worship predates music. Adam worshiped in the Garden of Eden, but music isn't mentioned until Genesis 4:21 with the birth of Jubal. If worship were just music, then all who are nonmusical could never worship. Worship is far more than music.

Even worse, "worship" is often misused to refer to a particular style of music: "First we sang a hymn, then a praise and worship song." Or "I like the fast praise songs but enjoy the slow worship songs most." In this usage, if a song is fast or loud or uses brass instruments, it's considered "praise." But if it is slow and quiet and intimate, maybe accompanied by guitar, that's worship. This is a common misuse of the term "worship."
Worship has nothing to do with the style or volume or speed of a song. God loves all kinds of music because he invented it all -- fast and slow, loud and soft, old and new.

You probably don't like it all, but God does! If it is offered to God in spirit and truth, it is an act of worship.

Christians often disagree over the style of music used in worship, passionately defending their preferred style as the most biblical or God-honoring. But there is no biblical style! There are no musical notes in the Bible; we don't even have the instruments they used in Bible times. Frankly, the music style you like best says more about you -- your background and personality -- than it does about God. One ethnic group's music can sound like noise to another. But God likes variety and enjoys it all.

There is no such thing as "Christian" music; there are only Christian lyrics. It is the words that make a song sacred, not the tune. There are no spiritual tunes. If I played a song for you without the words, you'd have no way of knowing if it were a "Christian" song.

Worship is not for your benefit. As a pastor, I receive notes that say, "I loved the worship today. I got a lot out of it." This is another misconception about worship. It isn't for our benefit! We worship for God's benefit. When we worship, our goal is to bring pleasure to God, not ourselves.

If you have ever said, "I didn't get anything out of worship today," you worshiped for the wrong reason. Worship isn't for you. It's for God. Of course, most "worship" services also include elements of fellowship, edification and evangelism, and there are benefits to worship, but we don't worship to please ourselves. Our motive is to bring glory and pleasure to our Creator.

Worship is not a part of your life, it is your life. It's not just for church services. The Bible tells us to "worship him continually" (Psalm 105:4, TEV). Every activity can be transformed into an act of worship when you do it for the praise, glory and pleasure of God. The Bible says, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31, NIV). Martin Luther said, "A dairymaid can milk cows to the glory of God."

How is it possible to do everything to the glory of God? By doing everything as if you were doing it for Jesus and by carrying on a continual conversation with him while you do it! The Bible says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men" (Colossians 3:23, NIV).

This is the secret to a lifestyle of worship -- doing everything as if you were doing it for Jesus. Work becomes worship when you dedicate it to God and perform it with an awareness of his presence.

  posted at 7:38 AM  

Sunday, March 09, 2008
The following is courtesy of Pretty interesting.

And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:31

Household – In an age which emphasizes personal salvation and individual belief, we have a hard time understanding Paul’s statement. We re-read this to mean that each one of the people in the jailer’s house had to come to a personal saving faith in Jesus Christ. We are so conditioned by the Greek mindset of the individual that we forget that Paul is a Hebrew, and that the Hebrew point of view is about community. It would be perfectly natural for Paul, as a Hebrew, to speak to the jailer and the “house of you” (oikos sou) as a single community. Salvation – yasha (rescue) – visited them all at once. What the head of the household accepts alters the identity of the entire household.

Before you throw up your hands and groan, remember how long we have been taught to think as separate individuals. Did you know that the current stress on personal relationship with Christ came into existence with D. L. Moody and Billy Graham? Yes, we find personal relationship language throughout the Scriptures, but it is almost always set in the context of community. I am not an island in the Hebrew world. My sins affect everyone in the community. My faith affects everyone in the community. We function together, intimately woven into a fabric of God’s own making. I do not exist apart from you, able to carry on my own agendas without interaction and intervention. The house of God is a single entity, not a collection of multiple individuals. So, Paul simply speaks as a Hebrew, telling the jailer that his actions affect all under his authority. We would do well to give some serious consideration to this point of view.

If there is anything that the church needs today, it is the living reality of community. Our lives are full of fragmented existence; a piece for work, a piece for family, another piece for our friends, our church and our social commitments. By the time we try to balance it all, we’re overwhelmed and exhausted. This is the direct result of living as independent individuals. But it doesn’t work. The truth is that we are fighting the design of the universe in our attempts to remove dependencies. Everything in creation depends on everything else – and we are no different. Until dependence reigns supreme in the church, it will never be a living community of the Spirit. It will only be a conglomeration of individuals. It’s time to think in terms of the household. What happens to one happens to all. That’s the Hebrew way.

My guess is that underneath all the separateness of our lives, we actually long for true community. We know that independence doesn’t work, but the systems of this world all seem to push us toward this destructive end. We want to belong, to be known, to be loved, but everywhere we go we find more separateness. How can the true church, the ekklesia, have anything to offer a fragmented world if it continues on its path toward individualism? That’s just what the world preaches (and much more effectively). How can I really know and love hundreds or thousands of people in a Sunday service? It’s self-defeating. God is the God of the household. Until we understand what that really means, we will be nothing more than islands in the stream.

  posted at 9:54 PM  

We got about 10" of snow between Friday and Saturday. Some great and very kind friends came over, completely as a surprise, and helped clear out our driveway and my folks' driveway (two doors down) yesterday. Wow. Their goodness and kindness blow me away.

I am still fighting sinus problems ... felt miserable most of today ... but got in a little nap earlier and that helped some.

Evan play a duet with his piano teacher at church this morning. He nailed it. Cheryl did a nice job, too -- heehee. Anyway, Lisa and I are both very proud of Evan. He has a tremendous sense of rhythm and tonality -- he really doesn't realize how truly gifted he is.

Have a busy next few weeks ahead of us. Hoping I get feeling much better soon. Lisa and Evan are still fighting sinus issues too.

Our church is planning to start a weekly Country Rock service that will not be held at our main church. Very exciting stuff, I think. I am not a country music fan and this won't make me one but it sure is exciting just the same. More details later as they become available.

Last evening along with four friends from church we attended a progressive dinner that we bought at a church auction. It was put on by some other church couples. Delicious food and lots of it and the most wonderful desserts you can imagine. These folks have beautiful, well-decorated, comfortable homes.

I received an email from some guy with a Russian name who will charter a flight for me from Munich to Iraq and back through Greece for 79.500 Euros. It is a little cheaper if you do not go through Greece. I sort of wonder why, if the point is to get to Iraq, there is extra value in going through Greece. Perhaps there's less chance of running out of fuel and crashing if you stop in Greece and gas up along the way and back. I don't know. We'll see how the next couple of weeks go. That flight to Iraq could look pretty attractive at some point.

I think that's it for now.

  posted at 9:36 PM  

Thursday, March 06, 2008
Well, the doctor started me on antibiotics yesterday for sinus and ear infections. Lisa and Evan were off school yesterday due to the ice storm and Lisa had to make a trip to the doctor as well. She has laryngitis and is now on antibiotics and prednisone. Evan is feeling not the greatest, too, having spent most of last evening on the couch feeling like he was going to urp. Snow is supposed to move in tomorrow with 3 - 5". And did anyone else note Ryan Seacrest's rather ominous comment at the end of AI last night? I do not know whether he was "just talking" or whether there was a big surprise in how America voted after the guys' competition Tuesday night.

  posted at 6:05 AM  

I SAMUEL 5 (The Message)
A story of God's power and authority as well as his watchfulness over those who love and abide in Him.

  posted at 6:02 AM  

Wednesday, March 05, 2008
I SAMUEL 4 (The Message)
The Israelites cheered when the ark of the covenant was brought to their camp. They felt certain that this alone would bring them victory in war. And the ark's presence scared the Philistines. But yet the ensuing battle was a disastrous loss for the Israelites.

Their pridefulness was their downfall. Instead of going to God in prayer seeking His power, wisdom, and direction, they celebrated, certain that the ark's presence was all they needed.

How often am I like that? How often do I cloak myself in pridefulness or even false humility (is there any difference between the two), certain that calling myself a Christian is all I need? How often do we as God's people fail to seek Him because we think we already know it all? How much justice is missed because we go about things pridefully rather than humbly and with a true seeking of God?

Good questions for today. Good questions for any day. Good questions for an election year in these United States.

  posted at 6:01 AM  

Is anyone else watching AI? Already, I am hooked on it. I sort of ignore what the judges are saying. It's pretty obvious to me that they are trying harder than ever to sway the voting ... and to keep their ratings up. That is pretty annoying.

A very talented group of contestants exists this year though. It really is coming down to where I think some very talented people could get voted out potentially just because of a minor problem such as a cracked note or missed word.

I am not even sure who my favorites are yet. I am a little cynical though over the whole thing because I believe that, more so than in past seasons, a great number of this year's contestants have some pretty serious singing, training and coaching behind them. These are not people who just sang in their showers before they tried out for AI. Quite a number of them have past professional gigs. Even the one who seems to be the judges' favorite -- David Archuleta -- was a Junior Star Search Champion a few years ago.

Oh well, call me odd, but I do enjoy watching it.

  posted at 5:52 AM  

Well, I had a doctor's appointment scheduled for yesterday but it was cancelled due to the ice storm. So, I am going this morning. Hopefully we can get to the bottom of my continuous reflex urge to expel my lungs from my body.

  posted at 5:51 AM  

As I suspected, the lack of my individual vote didn't make a difference in the Ohio primary yesterday. Mike Huckabee still would have lost and he still would have given up. That is a shame. I think he would have made a good presidential candidate in the end.

My other voting option was to follow the advice of some Republican pundits and vote for Clinton. Not sure how much of it was due to their urging but she did prevail in Ohio and Texas, making the Democratic race continue to be pretty interesting despite the Republican race being something to ignore now.

I am not sure Clinton really is an easier target for McCain than Obama. She might be. I worry about McCain's age but, honestly, I am not sure that Clinton or Obama have the mental stamina to make it through to November.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Trite though it may sound, here's a question for you: who do you think Jesus would be voting for, and why?

  posted at 5:43 AM  

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Had a fun weekend last week. Just thought I'd share a picture of it. (Hey, if you can't poke a little fun at yourself ... well, that's just a sad thing.) Yes, it was PhotoShopped and yes, it really is just one of the scariest things you've ever seen.

  posted at 9:10 PM  

I did not make it to vote in the Ohio primary today. I forgot about it on my way to work and, on the way home, we were in the midst of an ice storm and I did not want to stop.

If Mike Huckabee loses by one vote, I am going to feel really bad.

  posted at 7:03 PM  

Whenever I am at the dentist, I always get the urge to play with the button that dispenses water into the little cup and spittoon. But I always feel like they are watching me and like it would be some grievous sin to touch their little buttons.

This reminds me ... several years ago, I changed dentists. The guy I ended up changing to was a sort of no-frills, low budget dentist. (That may explain all of the fillings I needed when I later switched to someone else after this guy just suddenly closed his office one night under the cloak of darkness.)

Anyway, the first time I was at my no-frills dentist, after cleaning my teeth, he handed me a cup of water to rinse my mouth. After complying with the rinse cycle, I automatically turned to my left to spit, only to have his assistant scream at me because she was sitting there and he didn't have one of those spittoon sink things.

  posted at 11:08 AM  

Monday, March 03, 2008

For those of you who have ever wondered, a set of hemostats can successfully retrieve a credit card from the steering column on a 2006 Pacifica. Now you know.

  posted at 8:44 PM  

It could not have happened with greater precision or accuracy. No, I am not back to talking about the performance of "Blast" that we saw yesterday. Instead I am talking about something that looked like a perfected stunt execution from a movie about some poor sap who doesn't have life blowing him kisses that day.

I had just returned from a trip, picked up my bags at carousel 2, and proceeded to the parking lot. I didn't have to walk far as my car was in short term and I was very pleased that it was not snow covered. And, actually, for a nice change of pace, I found my car pretty easily.

I got my bags put in the car and proceeded to drive through the parking lot toward the little booth where I had to pay my $75 or whatever for their little piece of real estate for a few days.

As I am driving, I get out my wallet and pull out the credit card I want to use. In the midst of this, the card slips from my fingers and goes hurtling through the space of my car, through the steering wheel and ...

with great precision ...

down into my steering column.

From the moment the card left my fingertips, I knew exactly what was going to happen. "Son of a gun," I thought to myself. :-) I grasped and clawed and let out a cry of anguish but there was no stopping that card from its destiny.

I can see it down in there but I cannot reach it. I paid with a different credit card.

And now I have choices.

1) Leave the card where it is and get a new one, wondering what someone will think someday when they discover my credit card inside the steering column of a 2006 Pacific.

2) Try to get an extremely long pair of tweezers and retrieve the card.

3) Take apart the assembly around my steering column.

Option 1 contains a few risks. The card seems to be sitting on an electrical assembly of some sort. What if it melts into it somehow? That couldn't be good.

Not sure yet what I will do. I may look for very long tweezers. Very long. One issue is that the card, on its perilous trail, turned sideways. However, to come back out of its resting place, it must first be turned length-wise. That could be tricky. And it would be a pathway fraught with danger as I do not know how much further down the card could slip -- undoubtedly, well out of the reach of any pair of tweezers at the very least.

The problem with taking apart the steering column is my issue with completing processes. As I have said before, I am sort of a big picture guy who likes to take things so far and then I get bored. I have already been wondering whether it really would be a problem driving around without the housing assembly around my steering column. Would it even be a bit Bohemian of me to go about with it that way? I'd like the idea of that.

But, I am wondering, across the time and space continuum, had I been driving faster or slower, would my credit card not have slipped so neatly and cleanly into a very small slot on top of my steering column?

  posted at 7:01 AM  

Sunday, March 02, 2008
When I was in New York City, I saw the strangest thing. Well, you see a lot of strange things in New York but this was really strange. And, no, I did not see the naked singing cowboy.

But, as I was walking by a little park, I saw something very strange. Even for New York. There was a guy wearing a beret and a black and white striped shirt. He appeared to be French. But he was crawling on the ground, acting like he was trying to dig his way back home but he couldn't get there. He just kept moving around on all fours, pawing at the ground. It was quite a sight and a crowd was gathering.

I stood there watching. Actually, it took me quite awhile to figure this sight out.

Perhaps you have already figured it out.

He was a ....

you guessed it ...

a land mime.


  posted at 9:17 PM  

I SAMUEL 3 (The Message)
He is God. I am not.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the hopes and dreams I have had in my life. I guess this is the result of facing the reality that I really am mid-life at this point or, if you look at that as a literal cradle-to-grave thing, I am probably beyond mid-life.

When I look at the hopes and dreams I have had, it is frustrating. I came of age in the 80s and 90s. I always wanted more. More of everything and more than everyone else.

I realize now, of course, how selfish that attitude was but yet, deep down, a part of me is still in its clutches.

However, when I remember that God is God, and I am not, then I start to want His best. His best for me but also His best for those around me. And that is when I start to realize that when I seek things from my own selfish desires they turn out to not at all hold what I had hoped they would hold.

But, when I see what God wants, I find love, I find friendship, I find the warmth of living for others and the warmth of others living for me. (Strange concept that is -- others living for you ... but yet that is what Christian community offers, don't you think?)

God wants me to break free from the desires of this world that ensnare me. He is God. I am not.

Easier said than done. But try I must because what he offers is not the glitz and glitter of this world because the glitz and glitter of this world quickly turns to dirt and litter. It is His all that He offers. His best. His best for me and for all those who love Him and seek him, even suffering in this world, because we live for something greater to come. His promise.

He is God. I am not.

  posted at 8:23 PM  

We went to see "Blast" today at the Victoria Theatre in Dayton. It's sort of like "Band Nerds Gone Wild". I am joking. Sort of. It was a great show of musical talent, well-perfected choreography, and athleticism. I think Evan enjoyed it. There were a lot of teens there who appeared to be in local school bands. It almost made me want to get out my trumpet and polish it up but then what would I do with it? Oh well.

  posted at 7:40 PM  

Business recently took me to my favorite city for a couple of days -- The Big Apple -- NYC. It was the first time I'd been there since about 1999 or 2000. I'd been scheduled to go there on September 12, 2001 but, of course, that trip never happened.

A few observations from this trip ...

It was very cold there. The tall buildings create canyons that wind can come roaring down through. Wind chill was in the single digits much of the time I was there.

The Times Square area is starting to look like Downtown Disney. Many brand names and chain operations have locations there now. I guess I don't see it as a real problem but it does change things. All in all, it is good.

The hotel I stayed at has definitely gone downhill in recent years. Called The Paramount, I first stayed there when it was The Century Paramount. A major remodel occurred when it changed names, trying to turn it into a place that was hip and swank even though it still had very small rooms. Now it looks like a place that was once hip and swank but is now run down and still has very small rooms.

I am not sure but I think they have installed faster elevators at the Marriott Marquis. I didn't see near the backup of people trying to get on them that I have seen in the past.

The new Times Square TKTS half-price theatre tickets location is finally being built. Until it is complete, tickets are being sold outside the Marriott which really didn't work too badly.

They may be closing some Starbucks but there are still plenty around. My favorite coffee place in Times Square is now a popcorn store.

The downtown HoJo restaurant is now a hole in the ground. It was one place you could always depend upon for cheap food.

There is a new place in the Times Square area called Junior's that looks like it has replaced HoJo's.

There are more restaurants before on the 46th Street "Restaurant Row" between 8th and 9th avenues.

I saw a play called The Seafarer which is by an Irish playwright. I have seen one of his previous plays, The Weir. Both are very good.

I also saw a musical called Spring Awakening which won the 2007 Tony for best new musical. It was one of the stranger things I have ever seen on Broadway or Off-Broadway. And that is putting it mildly. The lead actor spit a lot. Sitting in the third row, I never got hit but I sure got to see him shower on his fellow actors a lot. At one point he was even drooling. I am sure that, as an actor, you do not want to have a dry mouth but he might want to consider seeing if there is anything that can be done for his issue. He did a great job acting and singing though and, in the end, it was sort of a fun show ... just very very strange.

I had my wildest cab ride ever going back out to LaGuardia to fly home. I think he made it in about 20 minutes which just doesn't seem possible. Sometimes in wild cab rides I just close my eyes and try to sleep. That wasn't an option with this guy.

I came home with a play in mind that I would like to write. I always do that though. But, maybe, just maybe, it could happen this time.

  posted at 8:42 AM  

I read recently where a high school in Arizona has instituted a "two-second rule" for hugs between students. This replaced a "no hugging" rule. Students protested with a large "group hug" held across the school grounds.

It seems like I see kids greet each other with hugs quite a bit these days. Unless it was a boyfriend-girlfriend thing, you never did this when I was younger. The students are protesting that two seconds is too short for "friendly" hugs.

I have never been a real big hugger but have gotten a little more so in recent years. All in all, I think hugging is good and is not the same as "making out" which really would not be appropriate for school grounds. Two seconds seems awfully short for a friendship hug. I wonder if all the teachers have to carry stopwatches now or if they have official "hug monitors" posted around the school.

  posted at 8:33 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.

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