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Saturday, April 23, 2005

Plugged and unplugged...

"Uplugged"
1 a : to take a plug out of b : to remove an obstruction from
2 a : to remove (as an electric plug) from a socket or receptacle b : to disconnect from an electric circuit by removing a plug

I was at a meeting this weekend and realized how easy it was to become unplugged from God. It typically slowly. It is usually very subtle... almost unnoticable at first. Then one day you sense that you have shallowed yourself out. In the words of Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, you feel "stretched thin, like butter spread over too much bread."

Beware the unplugging of your self from the Life Source. Guard against shallowing yourself out. Keep deep through the inexhaustible spring of God's Living Water.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Spider-Man Gospel

If you get a chance, take a look at the article over a Time.com on The Gospel According to Spider-Man. It's an interesting look at how the church uses movies as a teaching tool.

The new Pope...


I just wanted to take a quick moment to comment on the new Pope, Benedict XVI. I appreciate his conservative stance. At the Mass in memory of JP2, he said, "We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires." He went on to say that the church must defend itself against threats such as "radical individualism" and "vague religious mysticism."

I could not agree more with this assessment. However, B16 also said that rock music was the "vehicle of anti-religion" and as cardinal he initially blamed the priest sex abuse scandal on the media (he later realized its seriousness, but that was a bad initial move!).

I am happy at the new Pope's conservatism and look forward to watching his pastoral ministry grow. If you are interested in more "inside scoop" on the man who has become Benedict XVI, take a look at this article from an September 5, 2003 interview with then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. It's a good look into the mind of the man.

Staying balanced...

The Surgeon General's report on mental health defines mental and emotional health as the "successful performance of mental function, resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships with other people, and the ability to adapt to change and to cope with adversity... [It] is the springboard of thinking and communication skills, learning, emotional growth, resilience, and self esteem."

Here are some ideas for improving your emotional outlook on life:

1. Start eating better.
Good food = good health = feeling good = positive outlook.

2. Start exercising more.
A good workout raises your endorphine level and makes you feel better. (If you hate to work out, just think how good you'll feel when you stop!)

3. Challenge your brain.
Read a good book. Watch a movie. Get your brain off your current problems and on to something different.


4. Be a forgiver.
Learn not to sweat the small stuff. Don't hold a grudge - it's too much work.

5. Find a friend.
We all need somebody to lean on.

6. Be a servant.
There is something very refreshing about serving other people.

7. Build your faith.
Don't take time off from God when you're down, run to Him. Make a list of the ways God has blessed you and provided for you.

8. Learn to laugh.
Proverbs 17:22 says a cheerful heart is good medicine..."

9. Get some rest.
Your mind can work through things when you sleep. Make sure you're getting
enough. Take a nap when you are feeling stressed.

10. Lighten up!
Cut yourself some slack. You can't do it all, so why are you trying to? Get real about who you are and what you can do and make changes in your life where necessary.

Based on an article in Rev. (may/June 2005)

Monday, April 18, 2005

Don't miss this...

After I posted, I shot around to some of my favorite blogs. Once again, never one to disappoint is Randy Elrod at Ethos.

Check out Narnia. This is gonna be good! Stop what you are doing now and go to this website. Really.



Also, read the article Randy posted from Louis Markos. Louis is an incredible thinker in general, but specifically about words and language. Read his article excerpt at Ethos, or read the entire article here.

Finally, if you haven't seen Finding Neverland, go rent it (or buy it). Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet give awesome performances, but the story is where it's at. Pay attention for the very first peek at Neverland in Barrie's upstairs bedroom. The byline for the movie is Unlock Your Imagination. What wonders lie in store for those with the courage to do so.

Friend of God...

I was reading my new issue of Rev. today. I love the magazine. I generally read it from cover to cover (and enjoy it). Today I read editor Paul Allen's From Rev to Rev article. In it he says something that tripped me up a bit:

Here at Group Publishing we talk a lot about The One Thing - growing in out relationship with Jesus. I'm reminded - again - that me relationship with God is not about God doing things with me and me doing things for God. It's first about hanging out together, being friends with God.

While I agree that at its core Christianity it not a "give-and-take" relationship. I do not do to gain God's favor. In reality, there in nothing I can do to gain God's favor. It is unmerited. God's favor is gained through Jesus. That's why they call it grace.

However, I sort of take issue with the statement, "It's first about hanging out together, being friends with God." I struggle with this statement because it seems a little cavalier. Maybe it's just me - I realize that. But Abraham was the only person called friend of God.

More often, we are called servants, children, heirs, co-heirs with Christ, and bride. The disciples were called friends. But that doesn't seem to be the norm.

Maybe I'm just being too uptight. I know the spirit in which the statement was written was probably meant to focus on the relational aspect of Christianity - that we can have a real and true relationship with God. I understand that I could even call my quiet time, "hang time" with God.

Maybe I'm so caught up in the holiness of God that I'm missing the day-to-day tender mercies of His love.

Again, I'm willing to admit it's my hang-up. I guess as I write, I realize that the other missing part is really about service. Yes, there is a time to be Mary and sit at the feet of Jesus. I miss that too often. But there is also a time to work... to serve... to do. There is a time to be a Martha. In Luke, Jesus indicates only that Martha's timing is bad, not the activity. In fact, he doesn't call it bad at all - only that Mary's choice was "better."

And in John 14, one of the major themes of the passage is "love = obedience." If you love God, you will do things for him (obey). Even Ephesians 2:8-10 indicates that while we cannot do anything to earn our salvation, once we are saved it's all about doing things (good works).

So I guess here at the end what I'm saying is this: hang out with God... strive even to be named "friend" by Him. But understand that the result of "hanging out with your friend" should be unfettered obedience to Him. And do not make the mistake of attributing "buddy" qualities to God - he is far more than that. He is the holy Creator of the universe, who by His sacrifice chooses to enter into relationship with us. We should not take that sacrifice lightly.

PS. Why choose to write about this? I am seeing a trend in 21st century, post-modern, emerging Christianity that focuses on the "friend" aspect of God. I see things written and hear people say things like, "You deserve God's love - you're good enough for it." That just simply isn't true and it isn't orthodox. We deserve hell. We are not good enough - that's why Jesus came. Apart from God, all our deeds are as filthy rags.

As an artist I understand the yearning for closeness to God. I have it. And I believe God wants us to draw near to him. I believe that is biblical. However, there seems to be an elevation of an individual's derservedness that seems to be contradictory to Scripture. That is why I always feel a little uneasy when I hear our relationship with God described only in terms of "hanging out together" with God. If that is where we stop, I thin we have missed the boat on understand in the nature of salvation, sanctification, and service.

Here endeth the rant.

///////////////

Here are those passages listed above...

James 2:23
And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend.

Luke 10:38-42
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."


John 14:15-31

"If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."

Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?"

Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

"All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

"You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.



Ephesians 2:8-10
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Making a difference...

Blogging is a weird thing. Not the doing of it, per se. It's the concept. Does what I have to say make a difference?

I guess that all depends on what you have to say and how you say it. It kind of goes along with that old saying that you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. Even Jesus said that true worshippers would worship in spirit and truth.

Communication often comes down to the right words with the right heart. As I approach blogging I try to make a conscious effort to say something that makes a difference in a way in which people will be receptive.

Hugh Hewitt gave an interview on the Focus on the Family website about blogging. In it he mentions Randy Elrod's site, Ethos. In checking out Randy's site, I saw that he is going to be conducting a seminar on blogging in Nashville next month - $99 and you get one of Randy's signed watercolor prints (pretty cool).

Which brings me back to blogging. I believe that it is (or can be) so much more than just an ego booster ("look at me... I've got a blog!). It can be so much more than just an online diary. I believe that blogs can actually make a difference.

Ideas matter. The communication of those ideas matter. Blogs are a way of doing that. As a Christian, I believe that I have ideas that are eternal. I believe that those ideas combined with my life experience give me a unique view on life. Whether or not anyone cares is another thing! But I believe that by sharing these ideas, by asking questions I can make, in my own small way a difference.

So start a blog. If you're self conscious, don't tell anybody about it until you get the hang of it. But keep at it. Wrestle with it. Make a difference.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Perfection...

There are moments in time that are perfection. Moments when you think, "I could live this moment in time for the rest of my life." I had one of those moments last Friday (April 8).

Our family, along with my sister and her partner, had spent the week in Kauai at the Princeville Resort. The view from our room was beautiful, overlooking Bali Hai and the north Shore of Kauai.



One of the great moments of the week was golf. We ended up playing a round at the Princeville Makai Course. After winning a few bucks at Bingo Bango Bongo, I realized that - had we played the last two holes (we ran out of time!) I would have broken 90! If you have ever golfed with me, you know that is a major accomplishment.



Dawn and Maria went home early on Friday, leaving us the rest of the day with the Explorer waiting to catch the red-eye back tot the mainland. We decided to go exploring. We stopped first to look at some ancient Hawaiian heiau (sacred sites). One was called the "Birthing Stone," where ancient Hawaiian women gave birth to the kings.

Then we decided to take a drive to Waimea Canyon, the place that Mark Twain called, "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific." It was incredible!



Our final destination was the end of the road... Literally! We took the highway south around the island to the west side to where it ends and then drove for about 5 miles on a dirt road until we arrived at Polihale State Park. The beach here stretches on for mile and miles. Off in the distance you could see the beginning of the Napali coastline.

When we got there - thankful that the bone-jarring drive was over - we hiked up over a sand dune to a beautiful unspoiled beach. The boys and I stood there and before long they were asking to take their shoes off and go down to the water. I stood and watched them from up on the bluff for about 10 minutes, enjoying the solitude, before joining them at the water's edge.

When I finally joined them they were doing that little-boy thing where you run up tho the edge of the water and then run away before the wave could hit you. They were laughing and playing with pure joyful abandon. I snapped a few pictures and watched them for a few minutes before we got back into our car to head for the airport and the mainland.

On the way home I got to thinking about those minutes at the beach. Seeing my sons experience that joy and enjoying the peace and serenity of the moment I realized that what I had captured on film (or, more accurately, on my memory card) was a moment of perfection. I could bottle that moment and live it forever. It was a perfect moment... Perhaps the perfect moment of all my recent moments.



How often do I miss these moments? How often am I unaware of them because I am out of tune with my surroundings? Makes you wonder if maybe it's a good idea to slow down and smell the roses once in a while.

It reminds me of a guy I worked with at Microsoft... a manager named Jim. Jim said, "Enjoy every minute with you kids. My son was born yesterday and this year he's leaving for college." Thanks for the reminder, Jim. There are perfect moments waiting to be discovered and enjoyed.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Random thoughts... or are they?

I wanted to take a minute and tie together some random stuff I've had going around in my dome.

First a couple of shout-outs:

  1. If you haven't had a chance to check out Ethos lately, take a look. An especially tasty morsel was posted today (March 31) on "10 Power Questions for Personal Growth and Fulfillment." Also, if you get a chance, take a listen to one of Randy's podcasts. Great stuff, Randy. Keep it coming.
  2. Another blog I've been reading lately is Relevance, written by one of the guys in my band. I've really seen a lot of growth in his spiritual life in the past few years. I appreciate Chad's honesty and openness. Take a loook at his post from March 29, "Fighting to be heard..." He's got some great thought on teamwork while remaining really transparent.
  3. Finally, take a look at This Guy Falls Down. Mark is back in action with some great posts. Check out his posts on the "Roaring Lambs winning essays." Also, if you are into writing music, take a look at Mark's post from March 14 on "21 Songwriting Hacks Introduced." Or better yet, check this out on all of Mark's "creative process" posts. Mark should know a thing or two about writing... he's got two Grammys.

One of the other random thoughts for the day are some book recommendations.

I finally finished reading Hugh Hewitt's In But Not Of. Wow! What a great book!!! This is a definate recommend. I plan on having both my sons read it when they are 16 or 17 - and paying them $$$ to do it.



I also finished reading Blue Like Jazz. While it started kind of slow for me, I really liked how it ended and I will probably read it again with a greater appreciation. I appreciate the author's transparency about his spritual life and his struggles with his faith. I will probably pick up Donald Miller's next book after I return from vacation.



The other book I am in the middle of but need to recommend even before I finish is Bob Briner's book, Roaring Lambs. If you are a Christian, you need to read thi book and let it become the subtext to everything you do. Wow! Basically it is a fresh look at what it REALLY means to be salt in the world. Read this book!
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The final of my random thought is that it has been a very slow April Fool's Day for me. My feeble attempt to freak my wife out about mechanical problems with my truck amounted to nothing. My mom - who is an easy target - is in Paris. That means I need to race home and see if I can pull the wool over my oldest son's eyes, if only for a moment.

My wife says I am immature. She's probably right.