Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Quietly Listening

Today has been great! Before it is over I will have been blessed to spend time with my wife -Kim, my kids - Laura, Emily (John was working), my puppy - Sadie, a college kid in my small group -Zach, my boss - Steve, my elder - Roland, my co-worker - Kerri, my church family - various people, my small group - about 8 of the "Mighty Men", my daughter's youth ministers - Jim & Sarah, and many others whom I'm forgetting at this point in the day. But let me tell you what I'm most excited about - tonight. Do you know whom I'm going to get to spend some time with tonight? God! Now, I've been talking and walking with him throughout the day but tonight I'm going to get a blanket and go out in my backyard and lay down. (Hopefully my puppy won't be attacking me with slobbery kisses) I'm going to put on one of my favorite songs on a little boombox and I'm going to listen to that song over and over again. They say the weather is supposed to be crystal clear tonight and I'm planning on gazing up at the stars while these words just rain over my soul:

you should see the stars tonight
how they shimmer shine so bright
against the black they look so white
comin down from such a height
to reach me now, you reach me now

you should see the moon in the flight
cuttin cross the misty night
softly dancin in sunshine
reflections of this light
reach me now, you reach me now

and how could such a thing
shine its light on me
and make everything beautiful again
and you should feel the sun in the spring
comin out after a rain
suddenly all is green
sunshine on everything
i can feel it now, i feel you now

and how could such a thing
shine its light on me
and make everything beautiful
and you should hear the angels sing
all gathered round their king
more beautiful than you could dream
ive been quietly listening
you can hear em now, i hear em now
and how could such a king
shine His light on me
and make everything beautiful
and i wanna shine
i wanna be light
i wanna tell you itll be alright

and i wanna shine and i wanna fly
just to tell you now
itll be alright, itll be alright
itll be alright.

cus i got nothing of my own to give to you
but this light that shines on me shines on you
and makes everything beautiful, again.
itll be alright, itll be alright.

These are the lyrics to "Stars" by David Crowder. They are on two of his albums: Illuminate ('03) and Sunsets and Sushi ('05). I like the Sunsets & Sushi remix the best.

Anyway, this is a powerful song and I anticipate some great time with the Lord with this song shaping my thoughts.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Treasure Hunting

There are more than 500 verses in the Bible concerning prayer; nearly 500 verses concerning faith; but more than 2,000 verses on the subject of money and possessions. Jesus talked about money in 16 of His 38 parables.

And of course there is that pesky little verse in the Beating on the Mount: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt 6:21)

So ... I guess you could say that I'm on a "treasure hunt" right now in my life. No, I'm not looking for more treasure but rather I'm looking for my treasure.

Let me explain. Over the past two weeks I have lost 16 pounds. It was two weeks ago today that I sent my sights on becoming a better steward of my body and since then I have been a man on a mission. Through the power of prayer, encouragement of family and friends, and the supernatural, discipline giving prescience of the Spirit, I have been blessed with the uncharacteristic ability to not allow any sugar to enter my body. None! Not just sugar as in candy, cakes or cokes but also the kind that is found in rice, bread, potatoes, chips and the like. I am completely confident that I will lose no less than 25 more pounds.

Yesterday I turned my focus on becoming a better steward of my money, or better yet - God's money. They say that faith comes from hearing and hearing comes from the Word. Yesterday those words of Jesus that I quoted above arrested me and threw me in the slammer of introspection. I read. I prayed. I talked it over with Kim. I sought help from a trusted friend. And now, I'm asking for prayers. I am asking God to take my giving to an entirely new level. I don't want to be a good giver - I want to be a great giver! I want it to be unmistakably clear to God and myself "where my treasure is" So will you join me in this prayer battle. As silly as this sounds I am asking you to actually ask God to help me trust Him more and put Him first with how I spend His money.

I'm on a treasure hunt. And I pray that I find out that God is really first in my life. Will you pray for me too?

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Saturday Savior

The Saturday before Easter comes but once a year on the calendar. It frequents my life much more often. You see, the Saturday after the Friday of Jesus' death and before the Sunday of Jesus' resurrection was, well, sad. Good Friday was the lowlight of the story. Easter Sunday was the highlight. But Saturday? It wasn't much at all.

I have some questions about that sad Saturday:

What were the apostles doing? Better yet, what were they thinking?

What was on Pilate's mind as he woke up that morning?

What on earth do you think the guards around the tomb were feeling?

Where was Mary at about noon? Did she have a "feeling" about anything?

Was there anyone who was just sitting within eyeshot of the tomb watching and waiting?

What was the guard the guard who made the confession, "Surely this was the Son of God!" doing? Life as usual? A brand new man?

What was it like it heaven?

I don't know the answers to those questions but I am convinced that there are more important ones to be asking. Questions such as:

Why, when I know and believe the "rest of the story" do I function so often like Jesus is so loving (Friday living) but not so powerful (Sunday living)?

Where is my hope?

Why, after following Jesus for so long, do I still not trust Him?

and finally...

Why do I constantly "look for the living among the dead"?

Friday living is so wonderful! It is living completely confident that you serve a Savior that is so loving that He would die for you. That you have given your life to a God that would not withhold His one and only son if it meant purchasing your eternal salvation. Friday living is powerful!

Sunday living is so powerful! It is living completely confident that God raised Jesus from the dead - that Jesus has power over death and holds the keys to death in His hand. That you too will be raised with Him. That God wants to exert His "resurrection" energy in your life and give you power over the sin which leads to death. Sunday living is powerful!

But Saturday living? Scared, lukewarm, and full of doubt. In a word: Sad.

Jesus did die for our sins. He did rise again from the grave. That news is anything but sad. The life of those who truly believe it should, too, be anything but sad!

Happy Easter! He lives!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Discover the Unseen!

Last night my "mighty men" (a group of college students) met at our house as usual. We gathered at about 7 and ended at about 8:30. Again nothing out of the ordinary. We ate, talked, sought the Lord, prayed, and ate some more. The routine. but then it happened. One of those marker moments in life...

Matt Maxwell said, "let me go to my car, I've got a video for you and Kim to see."

He returned from his car with a DVD. Kim made popcorn and poured drinks. We all got comfortable and turned off the lights. I pushed play and ... and ...

and I'll never be the same.

What I saw with my eyes last night - What I felt with my heart last night - What I experienced in my soul last night ... was ... life-changing. I will never forget it.

I watched the video, The Invisible Children.

This video (both documentary and story) is jaw dropping, silence causing, self-examining and heart haunting. It was shot by three film students from USC and yet the story is not about them at all. It only about an hour to watch and was both engaging and disturbing.

Here is what I'm challenging you to do. Go to the site:
and watch the trailer. Towards the end of the trailer you will see a scene of the children sleeping in a train station basically piled one on top of the other. If that scene doesn't move you then don't go a step further. Log off and go back to whatever you were doing and pretend you never heard me say this. But, if it hits you like it did me - then go to the website and order the DVD and watch it for yourself.

You will never be the same.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Dental Delight!

Actual Photo from Camera Phone!

I write this blog entry from none other than my dentist chair! I'm not pulling your leg (or your tooth!) - I'm using my phone and typing away while my mouth goes numb. The torturist - I mean dentist has just given me three shots of Novocain and I get the bright idea to record the experience as it happens. So here's the thing about the dentist - dude has some serious tools!

The Little Sharp Crooked Pick Thingy: what is the deal with that? Of course what is the first thing they do with that sucker? "You say you have a painful cavity? Here, let me poke this sharp little 'metal' object in it!" Yeah, that will fix it won't it! No it won't. It will make hurt like heck. It would be like going to the doctor with a bullet wound and the doc reaches for a jar of pepperocini juice!

The Sucker Thingy: It doesn't matter who is assisting - if they are in charge of the sucker thingy - they control the experience for me. Forget the shots, the drilling, the fancy stuff - I want my mouth free of my blood, excess nasty Novocain & chunks of my own teeth - you know what I'm saying? Does anyone else feel a little comfortable when they say, "just goes ahead and spit" and what they mean is - push all that nasty stuff up to the front of your grill so I can wet vac it out for you.

The World's Smallest Water Pick: Don't let it's miniature stature fool you ... this thing will take the paint off your car! Of course it will make you gag too. My favorite is when they bounce some H2O off your chops and it tags the dentist in his specs. One of these days when they leave the room for a minute I'm going to see how far that little hose goes. I'm betting like 30 feet. I bet it will go over those mountains!

The Shot Shooter: I can't really comment much about this because the dentist never really gives you a clear shot. It's like when the shot shooter comes out the dentist turns into David Copperfield. I promise, I never saw the needle! And they never are 100% truthful with you about the shot shooter. The company line of all dentists is something like, "you will feel a little pinch." What they should be telling us is, "okay, in about 3 seconds you will feel a sharp pain rush through your jaw. The pain will increase incrementally as I press this little trigger and will reach it's zenith when I do the little vibrate the hand trick to make sure it goes all the way to the bone."

The Mini Mirror on a Stick: Not too much to reflect on (pun intended) with this tool. If you have a good assistant or a good dentist then you really have no problem with the mini mirror. However, if your dentist is one of those (mine is not) who will keep the mirror in your mouth while they turn behind them to grab another tool of torture and because they're not paying much attention to the matters at hand (or in mouth in the is case) the little mirror becomes something like a plunger that is effective at mashing that little dangly thing in the back of your mouth down your throat ... then you have some problems with the mirror. I wouldn't mind have one of those just to use when I want to know if the remote control is under the couch but not bad enough to actually get up from my nap. I could just stick that bad boy down on the floor and angle it just right ... "hey, here's my wallet!"

And finally...

The Dwarf Drill: What this mini Makita lacks in size it makes up for in sound? I've heard quieter jackhammers! Here's my problem with the drill. It leaves one of the senses out: sight. Think about it - you can hear the drill, feel the drill, taste the drill (or at least the silver that my dentist is currently mining out of my mouth) and yes, even smell the drill (if you count that lovely smell of ground filling and burnt teeth). But you never can see the drill. Again, it is a case where I think they distract you with the sucker and the mirror and sorta light speed like stick that baby in your chili-hole before you can get a good look. But you know when it's in there - don't you? And how? That's right ... that hideous sound! I wish I had one of those just lying around the house. How cool would that be? Kids having a tough time waking up? Just power that sucker up a few inches above their head ... I don't care who you are - you're shooting up out of that bed. Company staying a bit too long? No worries ... just whip out the drill and start turning it on and off while speaking about how that dessert was so good you can still feel it - stuck to your teeth. They will hear their toothbrush calling no doubt!

Well, the dentist is just about done. I've now received 5 more shots for a total of 8 and the entire drilling and filling process has taken just over an hour. The good news is that they were able to get that entire naughty cavity out of my tooth. The bad news is that the nerve probably won't last but a year or two longer and my tooth might start breaking on me when I eat tortilla chips. But wait, the dentist just told me some more good news: If the nerve does indeed die ... I get to come back in for a Root Canal!

I can't wait.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Is Everything Ok? No. It Isn't.

Wow! That is about all I can say right now.

Earlier tonight I went "walking the neighborhood" as our college students at Highland call it. Basically, early every Sunday evening about 50 of the most sold out, courageous, and loving students take to the streets that surround Highland Church with one mission: To share the love of Jesus. They've been doing this for about 5 years now and tonight was my first time joining them. I can't give you all the details and I can't quite put into words how I experienced so much pain and so much pleasure and so much purpose in one short 1/2 mile walk. I will share this one encounter with you for now:

The third house we (myself and a short, spunky, and spirit filled sophomore English major from ACU) came to my partner (who did 90% of the talking for the two of us- if you can believe that!) went and knocked on the door or an extremely dilapidated dwelling. A lady opened the door and came and stood on the porch with us. My partner didn't know her name but simply said the same thing she has said every Sunday for over eight months now, "how is everything this week? Is everything OK?"

I sensed the Spirit sweep down and onto this porch...

"No. It isn't." was her reply.

Her lip began to quiver, her eyes became enveloped in tears and her hand covered her mouth as if to keep herself from expressing any more pain with words. But she couldn't keep it inside.

"My old man left me. He took everything. He left me here with all these babies to raise. He just took off. He even took my car. I have to walk 5 miles each way to work at Taco Bell thanks to him. I have nothing!"

My walking partner took a step forward and opened her arms as if to say, "it's safe in here." That lady lunged forward and let her hold her for what seemed to be an hour but was a matter of mere minutes.

I'm not going to go into detail about what happened after that or how we handled it.

This isn't about us. This isn't about Highland. It is about Jesus restoring his people.

Bottom line for me today was this: There are people living around us all (within walking distance ... Say 5 miles?) who are hurting. They are wholly hurting! And we (present blogger not excluded) who are "holy" should be about the business of healing and helping the hurting.

But to do that we will have to get off of our comfortable cans. We must step out of our safe sanctuaries. We must quit "passing by on the other side of the road" in our cushy cars and pull over every now and then. Or just now! And then we must walk. We must walk up to the porches of the pain-filled people and knock on the doors of the hearts of the hurting and ask if everything is ok. And when they finally admit, "No. It isn't." - We must open our arms wide and declare, "it's safe in here!"


Pitching a Fit!

Okay, I'm at church this morning and it hits me: What's with the pitch pipe? How the heck did that little sucker sneak into the church? It is, after all, an (insert your own gasp here) instrument. Yeah, you heard me. I've just declared the pitch pipe an instrument. I mean it is a glorified harmonica don't you think? So for those of us who find ourselves worshiping in a barbershop quartet inspired church service we have to ask ourselves some serious questions like what's next? One of those little egg shakers? Say it isn't so!

So you've heard it first on this very blog - I say it's time to purify the barbershop-like-brotherhood for good: I say BAN THE PITCH PIPE! If I can be instrumental in riding the church of that little instrument then my life will be complete. You want to rid the body of false doctrine, sin, and demonic influence? Purging the pipe is the key.

But is it the right key?

Saturday, March 19, 2005

You Have The Right to Laugh

Okay, I'll admit it. I enjoy a laugh every now and then. My serious, detailed, accountant-like nature would lead others to believe the contrary. Not true. Not true.

Check these comical cops out:

Who says cops don't have a sense of humor?
These are comments taken off of actual police car videos:

"Relax, the handcuffs are tight because they're new. They'll stretch out after you wear them awhile."

"Take your hands off the car and I'll make your birth certificate a worthless document."

"If you run, you'll only go to jail tired."

"Can you run faster than 1,200 feet per second? In case you didn't know, that is the average speed of a 9 mm bullet fired from my gun."

"So you don't know how fast you were going. I guess that means I can write anything I want on the ticket, huh?"

"Yes, Sir, you can talk to the shift supervisor, but I don't think it will help. Oh! did I mention that I am the shift supervisor?"

"Warning! You want a warning? O.K., I'm warning you not to do that again or I'll give you another ticket."

"The answer to this last question will determine whether you are drunk or not. Was Mickey Mouse a cat or a dog?"

"Fair? You want me to be fair? Listen, fair is a place where you go to ride on rides, eat cotton candy, & step in mud & animal poop."

"Yeah, we have a quota. Two more tickets and my wife gets a toaster oven."

"Just how big were those two beers?"

"No sir we don't have quotas anymore. We used to have quotas but now we're allowed to write as many tickets as we want."

"I'm glad to hear the Chief of Police is a good personal friend of yours. At least you know someone who can post your bail."

"You didn't think we give pretty women tickets? You're right, we don't. Sign here."

Friday, March 18, 2005

Cards That Don't Cut It

I got the following email yesterday and thought some were pretty funny.

Hallmark Cards That Didn't Quite Make It:

Congratulations on your wedding day! Too bad no one likes your husband.

Looking back over the years that we've been together, I can't help but wonder... "What the heck was I thinking?"

How could two people as beautiful as you have such an ugly baby

I've always wanted to have someone to hold, someone to love. After having met you I’ve changed my mind.

I must admit, you brought Religion into my life. I never believed in Hell until I met you.

As the days go by, I think of how lucky I am... That you're not here to ruin it for me.

Congratulations on your promotion. Before you go... Would you like to take this knife out of my back? You'll probably need it again.

Happy Birthday, Uncle Dad! (Available only in Tennessee, Kentucky & West Virginia)

Happy birthday! You look great for your age. Almost Lifelike!

When we were together, you always said you'd die for me. Now that we've broken up, I think it's time you kept your promise.

We have been friends for a very long time … let's say we stop?

I'm so miserable without you it’s almost like you're here.


Now I know I'm taking a risk here ... but can anyone think of their own version of "not quite cards" that (yes, there is a caveat) are appropriate. If so, go ahead and share them.

I'll try a few:

I heard you lost weight ... don't worry, I'm sure you'll find it.

Congratulations on your new job. I'm sure the couch will miss your butt.

Friends like you are like flowers. You know those fake ones you buy at the craft store.

You get the idea.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Life in the Fog

I'm typing this blog entry on my cell phone while I'm driving from Abilene to Dallas. If that wasn’t dangerous enough it is currently so foggy out that I can barely see the cars ahead of me.

But I'm not complaining ... I am listening ... to God. And He is teaching me some terrific truth:

1. When in the fog, your confidence comes from not being able to clearly see your destination but from knowing you're on the right road.

2. In the fog it matters more than ever who you are following. The person in front of you can lead you to your destination or of a cliff.

3. It is the low spots on the journey that are the foggiest.

4. When in the fog it is a good to stay as focused as possible on the task at hand. Distractions can be deadly.

5. The fog won't last forever. I know, I just came through it.

You know, the Son never looked so good.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Wanting to Justify Myself

I love the story our Lord springs on the "expert" in the law in Luke 10. Most of us know the story...The expert stands up and asks of Jesus the question for the ages..."what must I do to inherit eternal life?" To which Jesus responds with another question, "what do you think the law says about this?" The expert gives the correct answer (love the Lord with all you got and love your neighbor as you love yourself) and Jesus says you've got it right, "do this and you will live."

Don't we wish the story had ended with that? There is comfort in the ambiguous nature of the word - "neighbor" - isn't there? If the story had ended there we could all decide for ourselves just who we think our neighbor should be. If the story had come to a halt right after that "live" word life would be so much easier. But it is the rest of the story that kills us.

The "expert" gets the bright idea to "justify"himself! Dang it! Why does he have to go and do that justification junk? He asks Jesus, "WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?"

Jesus answers that question with a story: the parable of the good Samaritan.

Three glaring truths jump out of Luke's account of this exchange between the "expert" and the "Eternal One":

1. You know the expert did not like the story one bit. Most likely he is a Jew and we know that Jews hated Samaritans. It would be like James Dobson telling a story to a group of flag waving veterans - "the Catholic priest passed by ... the Christian pastor passed by ... and the Iraqi Muslim stopped and helped." You get the idea. No doubt there were gasps in the crowd. In fact, when Jesus asked him who was a neighbor at the end of the story the expert couldn't even bring himself to saying the word "Samaritan" - he simply calls him "the one who had mercy"

2. We don't get to pick our neighbors. Thanks to this expert fellow the playing field of "neighbors" knows no boundaries. With one story all chalk lines of race, class, sight, smell and behavior are erased on earth. Our job description is changed from loving those we choose to love to the difficult task of loving those that God chooses to put in our path. Thanks a lot Mr. Expert!

3. Loving God without loving others isn't possible. It is not enough for God's followers to commit to refraining from "beating people up." Claiming that you're not a robber is not equal with claiming Christ. And neither is "passing people up." Sometimes we allow ourselves to be deceived that passing up people is not as bad as beating people up when in truth it is. The robbers left him half dead - physically wounded. If enough people had passed by this man who's to say that emotional rejection wouldn't have finished him off? Make no mistake. This story mandates that we be people who "pick people up!"

I said earlier that I wish the story had ended with "do this and you will live." I would have settled for ending it with the expert's response in verse 37. But NO ... Jesus has to get the last word in on this subject. He has to wrap it all up for us - put flesh on it - make the application:

So much for justifying myself...

Friday, March 11, 2005

Stewardship, Stewardesses and Thumbwrestling

I just learned a lesson at approximately 27,000 feet. I'm on an American Airlines flight from San Diego to Dallas seated next to my eight year old mass of exciting energy, Emily. (Kim & Laura are two rows back in the '"no squirming section") I boarded the flight equipped with a new book to conquer called, "The Stewardship of Life" by Kirk Nowery. Emily on the other hand, boarded the plane with boredom itself to conquer. I taxied through the foreword as the plane made it's way down the runway for takeoff. I flew past chapter one as our plane ascended into the low level clouds. And then it happened...the questions came down faster than the plane went up. "Dad, how do the little breather cups fall out of the ceiling?" "Why is are seat a raft too?" "If the plane lands in the water won't it float like a boat?" "How far is Texas?" etc... And no sooner had the landing gear tucked in then Emily's hand went out ... "Can we have a thumb war?" she asked. I immediately thought to myself, "I've got to read this book."

Then the truth of the moment appeared like a plane breaking through a cloud, "THIS IS THE STEWARDSHIP OF LIFE!"

So I put the book down. Emily and I had a thumbwar for the ages. We ate pretzels, talked, and had a blast! In the background I heard Kim and Laura laughing up a storm.

Life was good. Is good. No matter the altitude.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Life on the 405

I'm stuck in traffic on the 405 in beautiful LA at the moment...praise God for wireless internet and smart phones. So the day started, oh about 13 hours ago and we were supposed to have been in San Diego at around 4:00pm (pst) and here we are 6:50pm and we are about 2 hours out. The 'why' is due to a car issue that is destined to be the subject os later blog (perhaps) but needless to say (if it is needless then why am I saying it?) it has been a very long (and most likely very expensive) day.

We just drove through Malibu (seeing former students who go to Pepperdine) and past Dr. Dre's home. I found myself coveting his 'crib on the coast' . But here is the deal...(and hopefully the point of this blog)...Even Dr. Dre has to deal with car trouble and horrific traffic from time to time. And that simple and obvious truth is, in a real, yet sick, way. bringing me a bit of comfort right now.

Signing off from the 405...