Monday, April 27, 2009

Speaking about Sabbath

I was able to speak at church yesterday and was ecstatic to be able to dive into the topic of "Sabbath & Stress." Here's the link to the message: New Life Sermon Achieve.

There are two things about Sabbath that are not only genuinely special to me but also carry a lot of weight in my understanding of what it means to follow Jesus.

The first is that Sabbath is meant to be a reminder of CREATION & REDEMPTION. Just like celebrating communion is a sign to remind us of what Jesus did on the cross, Sabbath is a sign to remind of us of these two core truths:

CREATION: God is in control, not just of the universe but also of my life.
REDEMPTION: I am not a slave or a machine, my identity is based not in what I can produce but in my relationship with God.

How often do we forget those two things? The significance of CREATION & REDEMPTION should be real to us when we realize that God wants us to remember them WEEKLY!

The second thing about Sabbath is that God gives me permission to take one! God literally wants me to every week take a day when I don't work, when I don't produce or create, and simply exist. God wants me to take a day every week when I focus on connecting with Him, with family, with others, and with creation! How amazing is that! It's not a day about being "bored for the Lord" - it's meant to be the most important day of our week when we celebrate and experience that we're alive!

I told everyone yesterday that I was again the target of God's sense of humor. He always gives me the topics to talk about that I most need to hear. I don't practice Sabbath very well, at least not on a regular basis. But...this message got to me in a real way. Sabbath is going to become a regular thing in the Moss family! It needs to be.

And it needs to be for you as well!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Thoughts on the Town Hall For Hope

Thursday night was the THFH with Dave Ramsey. At our church the numbers were small, but with only three days to promote it - that was to be expected. Even with the smaller group of people it was pretty amazing to know you were participating with possibly a million people across the country. When their goal was 500 host locations and they had 6000 - you know that the idea of "hope" hit a nerve with people.

Dave Ramsey is a good speaker: very informative, practical, and humorous. I told a friend last night that the night could be summarized with, "speaking the truth in love and humor."

There was TOO much to remember. But, here are a few nuggets that stuck out to me:
  • Failure should be allowed: he wasn't being negative or sadistic in saying that, but this is where the truth in love came out. If you've set yourself up for failure then failure is probably the best thing that needs to happen to teach you different. How many of us have learned some of our best lessons in life after completely messing up. One person asked, "Is this our great depression?" After explaining how historically and statistically this isn't anywhere near the Great Depression, he said this, "If it is going to be our Great Depression - I hope so. Because the people who went through the Great Depression knew better than anyone in our history how to handle their money and lives, and maybe that's what our country needs now."
  • We should not be slaves to fear: Probably my favorite line from the night was when he said, "fear is not a fruit of the spirit, it is the antithesis of hope." One of the things he repeated over and over again throughout the night was, "Calm down!" How true is that? How often do we make rash decisions not out of a spirit of wisdom but responding to a spirit of fear? I try to tell myself and others that all of the time, "Stressed out, hurt, or tired are not the times to make major life decisions." Unfortunately we live in a culture that's news media thrives on pushing fear. Solution - either don't watch the news or have a good diet of the mind as far as news intake.
  • The final three action steps: At the end of the night he told people three action steps to take. First, get active, do something. Inactivity will lead no where. Second, avoid loser talk. The more you around negative, pessimistic, loser people the more you will become as such. As was quoted in our 20's group Tuesday night, "Bad company corrupts good behavior." Last, learn to give again. Whether it is time or money, we need to learn to help one another. Not empower laziness - but serve those who genuinely need it.
Some of the best and also funniest lines he said in the night were:
  • "If your food is disgusting, your prices high, and your service horrible - you shouldn't be bailed out, you should close. You're freaking lame!"
  • "My grandmother always told me that the place to go when you were broke was to work."
  • "Sometimes Christians use prayer as an excuse to not have to face reality. You can pray while you're working!"
It was a great night. The stream at our location was perfect, any technical stuff was at LifeChurch's site - and they handled it quickly. I thought some of the questions that came through were somewhat lame, but I wasn't pushing the buttons so can't do anything about that. I do hope they make a recording of the night available in the future, as I know a lot of people who missed it who would both like to see it and would benefit from seeing it.

I appreciated that at the end of the night he said, "The only sure place you have to place your hope is the nail scarred hands of Jesus - He is the only one who will bring you through and not let you down." Amen, and amen.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Why I like Twitter & Facebook

Some of the videos making fun of Facebook & Twitter are the funniest on the internet, especially Julian Smith's "25 Things I Hate About Facebook" and Supernew's "Trouble With Twitter." One of the best articles I've read about Twitter is from Relevant Magazine: "Twitter: What's It Doing To Us?"

With both sites, especially Twitter, there is the possibility of some serious self-absorption. Also with both sites there is the potential of some serious wasting of time. Come on, how many quizzes can you take along the line of "Which childhood cartoon villain are you mostly likely to have your favorite dinner with on your favorite holiday?"

Considering the negative aspects and justified videos making fun of the sites, I do think there are good things about Facebook and Twitter. For myself it all comes down to purpose and balance.

I use the two sites as a tool to help stay current with friends and family. I say they are a tool because I don't see them as the primary means of communication. But, as our way of life gets seemingly bigger and busier, Twitter and Facebook help facilitate a sense of smallness. As my bud Kevin stated it, in a paraphrased nutshell: "in the old villages everyone knew everyone and what was going on with everyone, the same in small towns. You can use Facebook & Twitter to bring that closer community into our bigger and busier lives." That sense of closer community is what I appreciate about Facebook & Twitter.

For example, I didn't have to ask my friend Lety from church last week the social cliche "how are things going?" Because she made a Twitter update I was able to ask, "How was the movie with the kids yesterday?" This is the biggest of the sites for me - they help me stay somewhat current with people I may only get to see once or twice a week, or for some even less.

Some would say, "but I don't want to know everything about everyone." That's a pretty big exaggeration, and even if it were true, I would agree, I don't either. But that's not what Twitter/Facebook is about - at least not with the people I interact with. It's about the big things happening in the day - the big events and the big thoughts. But clarifiying again, they are not the primary means for sharing and to obtain community, they are tools.

Being able to share pictures/videos via Twitter/Facebook is also great in connecting with people and staying current. I can share with people how Baylee is and how she is growing up with those who may not get to see her that often. Plus I can see what others having going on.

But, it's also about BALANCE. An hour is a LONG time to be in front of Facebook or Twitter. Toddlers aren't the only ones who need to hear, "Go outside and play." Probably 2/3 of the people on Facebook need to hear it as well.

I think Twitter & Facebook are great - especially if they are linked! If you are on Facebook you can install the Twitter app and have Twitter update your Facebook status, then you only need one log-in. When they work together they are pretty sweet tools to be able to hear what's going on in the lives of others.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Funny Twitter Video

Been sick this week. Have had a few things on my mind, but no energy when I sit down to write. So, to at least keep the silence gap short, I share this hilarious video about Twitter - thanks to my boy Todd for pointing it out:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Town Hall For Hope

We're very excited to be hosting this event at church this Thursday night. The difficulties and trials that our current economic times find us in don't mean that we are without hope. Below is the information from Dave Ramsey's website about the free event, as well as two videos:

On Thursday April 23rd at 7:00 pm, New Life Community Church will be hosting a free simulcast event called Town Hall for Hope. This event will connect families across the nation for a truly radical perspective regarding our current economic times: HOPE.
Tired of hearing the fear, doom and gloom that’s filling the airwaves? Join Dave Ramsey personal money-management expert, popular national radio personality and best-selling author of The Total Money Makeover, for a live nationwide town hall meeting and discover what’s happening with today’s economy, how we got here, and where we’re going. Plus, Dave will answer your questions throughout live simulcast!
Ramsey knows first-hand what financial peace means in his own life, living a true rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-riches story. By age twenty-six he had established a four-million-dollar real estate portfolio, only to lose it by age thirty. He has since rebuilt his financial life and now devotes himself full-time to helping ordinary people understand the forces behind their financial distress and how to set things right-financially, emotionally and spiritually.

When is the event? April 23, 2009, 7:00 p.m.

What is Town Hall for Hope?

Town Hall for Hope is your opportunity to sit down with people in your community for a nationwide town hall meeting led by Dave Ramsey. Thousands of venues across the country will host the event, broadcasting Dave's live presentation. In the opening half hour, Dave will offer straight talk about the economy, recession, foreclosures and more. He'll carefully explain where we've come from, where we are now, and what we should be doing with our money during this time. Then, Dave will spend an hour answering your questions live!

We'll take questions by phone, email, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and more! Check out our Get Involved page to see all the ways in which you can join in the conversation! And remember, this is a free event!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

May we never suppress another's dream

There is a buzz going around about Susan Boyle, a woman from England who sang on Britain's Got Talent. I highly recommend watching the video of her performance, but make sure to watch the whole thing. As you do, key in on two things: the audience/judge's reaction to her at the beginning and their reaction/response at the end. They've disabled embedding the video into blogs, so you'll have watch it on YouTube: CLICK HERE

There is a reality where talent must match dreaming. Hard work & dedication will help a person reach a required level of talent, but hopefully it's a given that you can't subtract talent from a dream for it to become a reality. one in the audience nor watching would have assumed she could do what she could solely because of their first impressions of her. Look at the snicker on the judges faces and the girl rolling her eyes at the weird lady on stage. Does she have talent, has she worked hard, does she have the experience weren't questions on anyone's minds. All they could see was a lady acting cheeky on stage (to use the English idiom). Everyone immediately concluded that she didn't have talent simply because they didn't think she did; they didn't give her a chance to prove herself before they had already made their conclusions.

That is the unfortunate reality - we often take our assumption of a person as certainty instead of discovering what is indeed true about the person.

The saddest line of this video? When she said, "No one gave me a chance before."

How many times do we assume our first impressions are accurate?
How many times are we kind while interacting with a person but at the same time we're dismissing them in our minds?
How many people are not allowed to truly shine, simply because arrogant people think they are unable to do so?

This video convicted me deeply. Though I have been in Susan Boyle's shoes before, feeling the pain of not being given a chance, I know very well I have been on the other end - having not given others a chance.

Apart from her singing and making everyone eat their words/thoughts, the best lines of the video: "I'm thrilled because I know everyone was against you. I honestly think that we were all being very cynical, and I think that's the biggest wake up call ever. I just want to say that it was a complete privilege listening to that."

God may I always give people a chance.
May I never suppress another's dream because they seem weird.
May I never be so arrogant to think that someone doesn't have something to offer - that someone doesn't have a talent they can use or a dream they can fulfill.
May we always give people a chance to surprise us with who they are and what they can offer.
May we always find it a privilege to experience all of the talents and abilities of all of those around us.
May we always help people discover the balance between talent and dreams, and help them find their voice and niche.

And may all of the Susan Boyle's of the world be given a chance to show what they can do!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Narrative Shaping Culture

I really resonated deeply with this video today. Donald Miller's authenticity on what he's gone through and how he came out of through the nature of story is powerful.

This is worth the time it takes to watch it. Go grab some chips and salsa, get something to drink, sit down and enjoy. I couldn't embed the video into the blog, so you'll have to click here: DONALD MILLER: HOW NARRATIVE SHAPES CULTURE

How's your life story going?

Note: chips & salsa are not required for viewing. Just enjoyable. :o)

Monday, April 13, 2009

What's In Your Future?

This is a video that I made for our church's Easter service, as an intro to the message:

Friday, April 10, 2009

Scapegoat Friday

One of my favorite books of the Bible is Leviticus. The following two paragraphs are from Leviticus 16 which is is about the Day of Atonement:

7 Then he must take the two male goats and present them to the Lord at the entrance of the Tabernacle. 8 He is to cast sacred lots to determine which goat will be reserved as an offering to the Lord and which will carry the sins of the people to the wilderness of Azazel. 9 Aaron will then present as a sin offering the goat chosen by lot for the Lord. 10 The other goat, the scapegoat chosen by lot to be sent away, will be kept alive, standing before the Lord. When it is sent away to Azazel in the wilderness, the people will be purified and made right with the Lord.

20 “When Aaron has finished purifying the Most Holy Place and the Tabernacle and the altar, he must present the live goat. 21 He will lay both of his hands on the goat’s head and confess over it all the wickedness, rebellion, and sins of the people of Israel. In this way, he will transfer the people’s sins to the head of the goat. Then a man specially chosen for the task will drive the goat into the wilderness. 22 As the goat goes into the wilderness, it will carry all the people’s sins upon itself into a desolate land.

The Day of Atonement was the day when the sins of God's people would be forgiven for the next year. A goat was chosen by chance to be the carrier of all of those sins - taking them away from the people into the land of nothing, the desert.

Today is Good Friday.
Today is a remembrance of the final necessary Day of Atonement.
Today is the day when Jesus became my scapegoat.

It wasn't by the roll of the dice, He wasn't chosen by a lottery in heaven. It wasn't a choice between Jesus and one of the angels. The Father chose to provide His Son. And Jesus willingly became the goat.

My goat.

That's the deep thing for me. It would be one thing if I had already committed all of my sins. You know, I was in the courtroom, the evidence was proven that I had done something, a verdict was given, and Jesus says - "I'll take the fall." But when He died on the cross - I hadn't even done anything yet!

"You know Jesus, there's millions upon millions of people who haven't even been born yet - and you'll be dying for all their mess ups too. You'll be their scapegoat too."

And He did it. He WILLINGLY did it.

Back in the Old Testament times when the Day of Atonement was happening, it was probably a quiet, somber moment as that goat walked into the desert. A mixed moment of regret as they were seeing themselves represented in that goat, but also joy as it walked away into the desert - carrying their evils away with it. It's walking away with their junk made it possible for them to stand before God in peace.

Today is should be just like that as well.

I think of what Jesus did. And all of my mess - the details which define my mess, the things people can point to and things I'm glad people don't know, the things which in essence show me to be an evil, selfish person - all of that He put on himself. He willingly, lovingly put all of that on Himself!

And He carried it all away from me into the desert.

Like a scapegoat.

I sit here in peace before God today because Jesus became a scapegoat for me. I really can't begin to put that reality into words. I just know that it makes be feel stupid when I think of the fact I still mess up. I mean...what do you do with that?

He knew I'd still act like an idiot and He still died for me!

As the people of God looked at that goat walking into the desert, I'm sure pondering the meaning and reality of what it was doing - take time to look into history and see our scapegoat...walking into the desert for us.

Let that sink in.

Scapegoat Friday.

Thank you Jesus.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Ultrasound Pics

Here are some new ultrasound pics of the new little Moss that is on the way:

Little face, profile shot. Looks like he/she is laying rather uncomfortable.

Little foot.

3D image - hand in front of the face.

Head, arm, and hand

As excited as I am for this new little one, I wish we could have gotten a few better images. But I guess when you don't have control over how he/she is posing and when the technician is controlling the picture button - you pretty much have to take what you get. No worries - we just want the baby!

July 28th - here we come!!!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Q&A with Ravi

Ravi Zacharias is one of my favorite speakers and this is a clip from his Q&A time at the University of Illinois. Our discussion about the Bible from our 20's group last night made me think of this so I wanted to share it. It's worth the few minutes it takes to watch it.

This is the book that he mentions: "Can Man Live Without God"

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

What I get to be a part of on Tuesday nights

Tonight was our 20's group at New Life Oak Forest. I get to facilitate this awesome group each Tuesday night and it is always one of the highlights of my week. They are each and every one amazing people who are great to laugh with, share with, discuss with, pray with, drink coffee with, debate with, and talk about life with - amongst other things.

Tonight we started going through the 2nd of New Life's growth book series called "First Steps." The discussion was on the need to spend time in the Bible. It was a little hard to get started because of other distractions in the building, but once traction hit it was great.

We really spent a lot of time on Psalm 1, specifically verses 2 & 3:

...those who delight in the law of the LORD and meditate on his law day and night. They are like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers

The question raised was, "if we're the tree - how's your tree looking right now?"

One person shared, "needs some watering."
Another, "needs some serious weeding." A few people connected with that.
One said, "I'm realizing now that I don't even know if it was ever planted in the first place."
And another shared, "I'm an out of season fruit tree." That was a great answer we all connected with in some way I think.

The result is that we're all going to try and get into the Bible in a real way this next week. We each picked a different book that we're going to be in, mine was Hebrews. We'll email throughout the week thoughts and insights, culminating with a bigger time of sharing next Tuesday. This will be great for our group. It will be great for me I know.

I just love being with these people. We laugh a lot - but we share a lot, and are getting better at both. It's definitely been a help and motivation for me. These people are helping love & live Jesus more.

So...a shout out to the 20's group! You're all awesome - love ya's tons!!!

As a recap of tonight, here was my twittering throughout the time. I was in a goofy mood I guess at the beginning of the group and it just kept going with the tweets. Sorry people if it was distracting. I was trying to be subtle though. :o) And just for the record...I do think I had a good paraphrase of Psalm 119:105
  • 20's group: Audrey told a story about a creepy old guy she delt with today
  • 20's group: Sara told a story about a 5yr old kid who double birded and f-bombed her at daycare
  • 20's group: Michelle just got here late and Cease ditched us tonight
  • 20's group: El Rancho chips are the best. Sarah's new story isn't as funny
  • 20's group: OK, the story did end up being funny
  • 20's group: movie reviews going around
  • 20's group: Cari Flynn just walked in late, worship band is playing "Superstious" upstairs. Hilarious!
  • 20's group: Sarah has scary stories about kids in daycare
  • 20's group: Starting discussion, but we just heard that Jessica almost choked during communion once
  • 20's group: 2 Timothy 3:16
  • 20's group: How do we add to the Bible, maybe even not realizing it?
  • 20's group: Psalm 119:105 - The word of God is the headlights on my car and GPS for my trip.(Bobby's paraphrase)
  • 20's group: beautiful discussion on Psalm 1; how's the tree doing?
  • 20's group: Jessica just ordered 1, 2, 3 John with a side of Jude, but hold the Corinthians
  • 20's group: our group just plain rocks!

Monday, April 06, 2009

A story you should read! READ IT!!! (fist shaking)

When I was in youth group we had two awesome youth volunteers, Phil & Molly Stewart. Their daughter Melissa was around my sisters age and was starting in youth group when I was in college at Moody doing an internship with our youth pastor Mike. Melissa and I have recently reconnected via Facebook. Today she shared an amazing story about her life's journey that I want to share with whomever will read it. It is amazing and would be well worth your time to read it! Here is Melissa's story, which she entitles, 'The Pursuit of Happiness":

We live in country whose constitution acknowledges a pursuit of happiness. The constitution guarantees our rights of life and liberty, but only a pursuit of happiness; not a guarantee of happiness, but a right to pursue it. My story will recount how I spent the past 24 years pursuing happiness.

I started attending church when I was three years old. I was very lucky and blessed to be raised in a Christian home with Christian parents who raised me with Christian ideals from infancy. I was saved when I was 8 years old, and baptized when I was 12. As a young child, I was active in the Awana program. I memorized bible verses, witnessed to other children on playgrounds, sang worships songs while riding arond town running errands with my mom. As I grew older, I became active in the church youth group. I attended Christian bible camps in the summer, I participated in events such as the 30 hour famine, and enjoyed fellowshipping with other Christians on youth group retreats. During this time as a child, I pursued happiness while pursing God, and I was greatly rewarded.

If I were to pinpoint a certain time in my life when that pursuit of happiness took a drastic turn for the worse, it would be the very first weekend of my freshman year of high school. I got drunk for the first time. This opened a whole new area of opportunities for me to pursue happiness. I spent most of my high school days trying to figure out how to become more popular. I was consumed by vanity and self-fulfillment. My pursuit of happiness during these four years led to me being arrested at 16 for minor consumption, experimentation with eating disorders in a desperate attempt to stay thin and pretty, and a broken and battered heart from boys that used me because I allowed myself to be promiscuous. Needless to say I failed miserably at pursuing happiness at this time.

But I moved on. I enrolled in college. The first year I was enrolled at Indiana University we were voted "the number one party school in the country." It's true, I had a t-shirt stating that fact, and I wore it proudly. It was at IU, that I continued to practice the art of binge drinking, pushing myself to dangerous and near-deadly limits. I started smoking weed and cigarrettes. I thought promiscuity equaled popularity, and I desperately wanted to be popular and well-liked. In my search of popularity, I joined a sorority. I surrounded myself with girls who told me that I was nothing but the designers that I wore. Soon, I began resenting my parents for not being rich enough to provide me with the desinger jeans and handbags I needed to really "fit in" with my surroundings. Since I couldn't fit in with my "sisters" I escaped it. I discovered the joy of roadtripping: packing our bags, and packing a car, full of eager girls, in search of the next great adventure, usually a concert. As if this literal esacpe from reality weren't enough, while on these roadtrips, I would drink heavily, smoke heavily, and try to prove that I was someone. I thought that the more famous people I met, I would somehow become famous by default. Sadly, this is not the case. During my years of pursuing happiness at IU, I was rescued from being blacked out drunk in the middle of the street by some guy I barely knew. Just a few weeks later, I woke up in an emergency room in Cleveland, Ohio after nearly dying from alcohol poisoning. I failed so miserably trying to pursue happiness during these years that I thought my life was no longer worth living. I was found on the bathroom floor of my sorority trying to end it all. I didn't succeed in ending my life, but I succeeding in ending my time 'studying' at Indiana University.

I transfered schools to Indiana University Northwest so that I could move back in with my family, and get my life back on track. The one thing that was missing from the equation was God. I left his side some years ago, and strayed so far away, I wasn't sure how to get back. I thought that when I moved home, I'd start attending church again regularly, and somehow all would be right again. This isn't exactly how it happened. While I was going to school full time, and working full time in a retail job, I also got a side job working in a bar on the weekends. This bar was the reason I continued to binge drink, and smoke, and flirt with guys while flirting with disaster. I was usually too hungover to attend church with my parents on Sundays. Sometime during my senior year of college, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. adenoid cystic carcinoma. a-d-e-n-o-i-d-c-y-s-t-i-c-c-a-r-c-i-n-o-m-a. I can spell it because I used to type it into google every single day of my life, and read all of these web pages about this very rare form of cancer. This is what I translated: "your mom is most likely going to die. Your mom is probably going to die. Your mom is definetely going to die." You see my mom, wasn't just the woman who gave birth to me. She was my best friend, sometimes my only friend, she was my lifeline, my rock, my support group, she is the reason I'm even around to have a story to tell today. My mom couldn't die. No way. I could not survive without her. So I started bargaining with God. I made every promise to him under the sun. I prayed so hard, all day, every day, and made him promises I knew I'd never fulfill. He knew that too. Because as soon as I got done praying, I'd go right back to the bar, and start taking shots to get nice and drunk, so I no longer remembered my mom was even sick. Somehow, through all of this, by the grace of God, I graduated college. Shortly thereafter, my mom's cancer went into remission. She's been cancer free for two years now. Praise the Lord.

With my mom healthy again, I decided to return to my pursuit of happiness. I had big dreams for my life. Heck, I even have it tattooed on my wrist. "dream big." I wanted that sex & the city lifestyle. I wanted to do big things, buy nice things, meet cool people, and I wanted to do it all on my own. And I did. I live in an amazing apartment, I have an unbelieveable job, I've met just about every celebrity/pro athelete I've wanted to meet. When I went to the clubs, I was always VIP. What does VIP stand for anyways? Vain. Insecure. Pathetic? Thats what my life was. I thought I had it all, I thought I finally "made it". All of those years of wanting to "be someone" and I finally was. But deep, down, in my core, I knew there was something wrong. There was something missing. I kept searching and searching and pursing happiness, and I kept coming up empty handed. My favorite band at the time had lyrics to a song that kind of struck a chord with me. The lyric was "do you remember when we laughed and said 'I really want my life to matter, but I don't know what I'm chasing after." Well, I decided to post this as a status update on facebook. This was the day that changed my life for good. Forever. An old family friend reached out to me that day with some harsh words regarding the reality that I was living in. He brought to my attention that all of the empty and materialistic things I was pursuing were not going to bring me any closer to happiness, and that the longer I pursued these things, the more miserable I would become. That was it. That was all it took.

That one message broke me harder than my mom's cancer. I was broken down, in tears, in prayer for the next few hours. I prayed to God that he forgive me for straying so far from him for so long. I begged him for his mercy and for his guidance to lead me back to a life that would be pleasing to him. I have continued to pray this every single day since. I have also sought out, and found, an amazing church in Chicago and have been regularly attending for a few months. I have also joined a bible study group that meets once a week to discuss the Sunday message and to hold each other accountable. I have decided to volunteer my two week vacation at work to counsel at the same Christian Bible camp where I used to spend my summers as a teen. God has done some amazing things in my life, in just a short period of time. I am so excited to see what he has in store for the rest of my life. After 24 years of pursuing happiness, I finally found it.

The reason I decided to share my story has nothing at all to do with my personal happiness. It has nothing to do with me at all. The moral of my story is that it's N OT all about me. In fact, it's not even a little about me. It is all about Him. One truth I have come to learn is that God is a greater Savior than I am a sinner. The most amazing thing about that truth, is that it doesn't only apply to me. It applies to everyone. Even you. Yes you, reading this right now. If my story can reach out and touch the life of one lost soul, then every single trial and struggle I faced in my life has been worth it. If it could lead one more person to Christ, I would live those same struggles ten times over again. Every single day, for the rest of the time God allows me on this planet, I will spend pursuing Acts 20:24."However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me- the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." And there you have it, just one more story of proof that our God truly is an Awesome God.

Amazing testimony to hear! Thank you Melissa for being so vulnerable!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Eric & Kathy...I don't get it

If you live in the Chicagoland area you've probably seen the Eric & Kathy (from 101.9) billboards around. Last year I thought their marketing idea was hilarious. They had various musical artists on one side of the billboard and then they would mimic their look on the other side. Green Day, U2, Gwen Stefani...they were really quite funny. Now the billboards are just them wearing winter coats and hats, while posing in various ways. One has Kathy like breathing on Eric's neck or about to bite his ear - complete weirdness. They're just kinda dumb and odd. I was driving home from church today down I-57 when I saw them again, thinking, "just doesn't make sense." I'm all for a funny commercial/billboard - and these are a let down, especially when the other concept was so hilarious.

I still think the Magic Fridge commercial from two years ago is hilarious, and the Sprint Crime Deterent commercial is also quite funny. Probably one of my favorites.

What's your favorite commercial/billboard?

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Decodifying God & Manhood

I saw this video on Thursday on the website SoulPancake that really moved me. It's a video of the poet Anis Mojgani performing live. Had never heard of him before, but that takes nothing from the performance. I can't embed it here, so you'll have to CLICK HERE if you want to see it.

It really moved me because of its themes of finding God, trying to figure out what it means to be a man, and how those pursuits work in turn with where I am now in my early 30's and where Baylee is in life at 2.

"I'm looking for God and trying to figure out a little better this thing he called a man."

A pulsating rhythm in my mind these last two days that has been connected to various moments from the week (Sticky conference, "blessing" conversation in class on Thursday, moments in quiet) is the depth of life and living it in constant craving and searching for God and being in an ever present awareness of what that pursuit means for who I am.

Maybe you won't connect with this video. I did though. I still am.

Just a warning - he does drop an F-bomb once. That might offend someone. He also says masturbate twice. Some might be offended by such references, probably wouldn't appreciate the video anyways then. But...that's subject matter for a future post.

"Slow down and hold what you see just a little while longer..."

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Blue Parakeet

Just finished this excellent book! If you have to read or study the Bible, if you own one, I highly recommend it.

Blue Parakeets are"those passages that are oddities in the Bible that we prefer to cage and silence rather than permit into our sacred mental gardens" (pg 208). McKnight's book is basically an introduction on how to read the Bible as story and why one should. He speaks of how people need to read the Bible with tradition rather than through tradition or even in just a read-to-retrieve mentality.

The subject matter is well-outlined and explained. It was very encouraging to me because it affirms many ideas and ponderings I've had about how we read the Bible, or even frustrations on how others do so.

On my Goodreads page I only gave the book 4 stars out of 5. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is that I feel like there needed to be more of an explanation on how to do actual Bible study within this paradigm. This book is more about paradigm shifting/challenging than a how-to book. A little more how-to and I would have given it that last star. My fear is that some would take his ideas about discernment and "that was for then this is for now" out of context and say about "blue parakeet" passages, "see - I don't have to do/worry about this." That is NOT what McKnight teaches in this book. Not at all. However, I think a little more how-to or at the minimal a little more emphasis on the need for good study would prevent this. He does give a good case study in the final section of the book, but that isn't to teach how-to but instead to show the concepts applied.

Highly recommend the book! Especially if you read/study the Bible regularly. VERY MUCH so if you've ever been frustrated with aspects of reading/studying the Bible. It will challenge & stretch some - but this is needed and good.

"It doesn't say...anything!"

In my Studying & Teaching the Bible class this morning we were talking about Lesson Aims: which in a nutshell are focused, measurable goals you have for your lesson that are focused on the student and their life change. Basically, what do you want to accomplish in this teaching? An example of a lesson aim: "The students will discover why staying up really late at night is bad for their health by going over statistics and research of sleep patterns & health issues." That just came off the top of my head - probably a Freudian slip that I need to sleep more.

Part way through we began going over examples of "bad aims" and why they were bad. The first was "I want to be a blessing to my class." Everyone got the glaring things: not measurable, focused on the teacher, too vague, etc. During a moment of quiet while they were pondering more critiques, Ben responded, rather matter-of-fact, "It doesn't say anything! I mean, that sounds good but what are you saying? It could be anything!"

It was a pretty funny moment the way he said it, but I also thought that it was so good, simple & brilliant. "I want to be a blessing." Sounds so good, so right - but am I really saying anything at all? Is it possible to use a lot of "church-talk" that sounds really good and sounds like we have it all together in our head and heart - but we really don't? Can we be talking a lot without really saying anything?

Obviously we need to be a blessing to people - but...what does that mean?

So...what does it?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

I don't want a New Testament Church!

I've had conversations with people and have read in books the need to get back to church the way it was done in the New Testament. I understand the principle, the idea behind this I think. Yesterday at the Sticky Church conference though I had a thought: I really don't want a New Testament church - I want a 21st century church! Let me explain.

To truly have church the way those in the New Testament did, the following would need to be true:
  • I can't use my guitar for worship- even the acoustic one.
  • I can't use my TNIV Bible, or even an ESV, NIV, NLT, or even a KJV. Well, maybe a KJV.
  • I can't sing any of the songs that I know - even Amazing Grace.
  • Obviously Power Point & Media Shout aren't necessary then - but regardless, I couldn't use them anyway.
  • I couldn't use my car.
  • Would need to delete my email, blog, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.
  • Any books that I have now on ANY subject matter would have to be ditched simply because they are bound books.
  • And I'd have to tell most of the people that I know that they can't come to my church because I can't fit them in my house.
Those are just a few examples, I'm sure more can be thought of, but the point is: the NT church didn't have any of these things - so if I'm really going to have a NT church then I can't either!! Time to brush up on Greek & Hebrew, huh?

I want a 21st century church!

Let me clarify, I want a 21st century church built on New Testament principles. That distinction needs to be made. Little harder to discipher because we have to actually study and learn what God is telling us about this beautiful thing He came up with called the Church - but I think that is better than just reading and mimicking without really understanding what is being said.

Like I said, still chewing on this. Any thoughts?