Sunday, December 31, 2006

Experiment

Sorry I've been out for so long! This semester got a bit overwhelming. And then there's a little experiment I've been working on.

I've often noticed how easy it is to find Christian resources through Google searches and the like, but I've rarely had a way to find reliable Christian resources. AND, I've found many useful things online over the years that I wish I could share with folks. Add to that a desire for pay off school debt, and there you have it: CROSSTIE.ORG. Please VISIT!

Ok, it's really just another blog that looks like a website, but I'm trying to index and evaluate many good online tools with room for the opinions of other folks (it's unmoderated for now). I plan to add at least one a week and label them so you can easily find things through the contents (or the search at the top of the page). I hope to keep the list down to a workable number of good sources and do not plan to evaluate things I don't find useful.Nor do I plan on sticking with evangelical or even Christian material. If I find it helpful for ministry, I'll try to stick it in (for example).

Anyway, take a peek and share your thoughts. I'll be adding book links through Amazon at a later date.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

11:45. First car-sick of the trip, but what a difference a year makes. She used a barf bag!
-steve

8:45 (our time) -- leaving Bryant, AR (Arkansas).
-steve

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Saturday, November 18, 2006

8:00 leaving West Memphis. Lots of coughing last night. We didn't sleep well, but we're excited.
-steve

Friday, November 17, 2006

3:00. We're pulling out. Madison's play was great. We're tense but it's getting better.
-steve

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Pumpkins Three

Sometimes it's difficult to recognize just how fast they grow, and to see how the little ones go even faster. Megan cut her own pumpkin when she was six. Madison did it last year at five. Now Mackenzie this year at four. But we sure do have a good time doing it!

They pick the pumpkins and draw their faces. I copy them to the pumpkins and make a lid. Then they do the rest with tools like dull jigsaw blades (ok, I did the mouths for Megan and Mackenzie, but it was just because Kenzie got tired and Megan was worried about the tongue). At the end, I clean them up so the edges are good and the light works well.

You can buy pretty cool designs now, but nothing beats seeing their personalities shine through ;-)

Can you guess?


2006 (above, clockwise from left): Madison's pirate, Mackenzie's scary face and Megan's hillbilly.

2005 (clockwise from left): Madison, Mackenzie, Megan.

2004 (clockwise from left): Madison's self-drawn, Megan's self-cut and Mackenzie's dad-did-it special.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Anatomy

I'm not going to admit to watching the show because some of my readers are also our students, but it does intrigue me ;-)

I am struck by the way they have chosen lives that completely disregard the plan of God and that they so clearly suffer the consequences of life outside His provision. Repeatedly. They speak frequently about the pain they bring, yet they remain dedicated to these same afflicted behaviors. It is a beautifully disturbing view of original sin and the fallen state of man. They continue in the same pattern of sin and disregard for God because they are unable to do otherwise. The unregenerate, un-redeemed human is unable to climb out of the pattern. They see the pain. They recognize the consequences. They fail to change. They are trapped. Non posse non peccare. Not able not to sin.

But the writer adds an incredible irony--these same fallen and pitiful creatures devote their lives to the removal of physical pain and affliction. They are doctors, but more importantly they are surgeons and save human life on a daily basis. In a physical sense, they bring salvation, redemption to human bodies. Yet they themselves remain condemned, unregenerate, unable to lift themselves from spiritual bondage as they deliver others from physical bondage. There is one exception, and I wonder at the coincidence that her faith was established in early episodes. She is as frail and subject to failure as the others. But unlike them, she learns. Posse non peccare. Able not to sin.

Monday, October 02, 2006

An Amish Nocturne

Peter Berger calls it a signal of transcendence--an experience in this physical reality that hints that surely something more is out there. He names five: order, hope, play, humor and one other that seems to strike a chord today--damnation.

There are certain actions among humans that seem to demand more than mere justice can provide. Crimes that beg for a punishment greater than we can deliver. Crimes that make us long for a greater justice.

I know, that makes for a lousy theology of Hell and it implies that I am somehow less of a disappointment to God than a man who murders little Amish girls, but days like this at least clarify what Berger meant. That he chose girls is unfathomable. That he bound them and executed them with a 12 gauge is difficult even to type. That he is the third school shooting in a week weakens my resolve. That he took his own life and bypassed a trial is hollow and unsettling.

When we were children, we drilled for an atomic war. We would all joke of the lunacy of sitting beneath a desk to be safe right after we had seen video footage of exactly what a blast would do to us. But there was never a war. We feared it, but it never came.

For our children, life is so very different. They drill for lockdowns. Teachers know how to evacuate a room in secrecy. Administrator speak in code to avoid panic. They know what to do when the first gunshot is heard. And they use it. They used it in Colorado last week. They used in Wisconsin. I'm not so sure about Pennsylvania. This community of pacifists didn't have a lockdown drill in place....

It is quite sobering to consider what our students must feel when they walk into a building that seemed so safe when we were young. It affects the way I teach, or at least, it will.

God told Habbakkuk that it is in mercy that He withholds judgment, for if He so moves, He will judge all, not only those whom we would choose. But there are days when Habakkuk's request is hard not to utter. "How long, O Lord...."

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Dragonflies

It seems events of late have swamped my blogtime! My apologies to all of you have built up (unread) in my Bloglines account, but I'm beat. But it's good.

We've been a bit busy since we got here, but the addition of Greek last year certainly changed things! Now that I'm third semester, I honestly put in about four hours of homework for each class (and that's without continuing to memorize so I can pass the proficiency test). So, you might ask, "Is it really worth it?" I ask the same thing on a weekly basis, especially when I'm trying to do a good job at work and at home, but the answer is, "Yes." For those of you who have read the Tolkien trilogy, it's the difference between seeing the movies and reading the books. The movies are great, but there's a level of understanding you get from the book that you just can't match with film. Most people don't need it, but it's great to have a book-reading friend around when the movie gets confusing, especially the first time you see it. That's Greek--it's great to have someone around who can fill us in when the confusing stuff comes up or add the insight that reveals the beauty and mastery of the Word.

Truth is, I'm developing a kind of discipline that I've needed for years and it pays off in other ways. I'm thoroughly enjoying teaching with Wildlife (and, believe it or not, Greek helps; it's amazing the confidence that school builds). I'm enjoying our new Pruitt Saturday Sabbaths (I stayed up till 4 to keep a promise to do no work or school today and it was totally worth it). And... I'm enjoying coaching the Dragonflies! That's right, we just can't keep away from coaching one of the girls! Soccer with three players makes our schedule a bit tough, but the time in the community and the chance to cheer for our daughters make it all worth it (tough is just part of the package for a few more years). Today's game was excellent--it is amazing when you can see 4-year-olds responding to practice and coaching. Today we stopped the ball and turned it around. We've been working on that one skill for two weeks and today they all did it.

It seems I'm learning that I love the chance to teach. Period. 4-year-olds. Junior High. You name it. But most of all, I like to see it work.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Agent of Change

We weren't in the same business, really, but I only pray to be as effective as he was. All of us felt like we knew him and he did something for the world that those of us in ministry long for--he changed it. It wasn't spiritual. It wasn't eternal. But the way we all think about crocodiles and snakes has been altered and it is solely because of his passion and commitment.

We pray that God works through us as we teach, and sometimes He does. But it is inspiring nonetheless to see his influence and wonder what God could do when we become as passionate for people as Steve Irwin was for reptiles.

I'll miss him.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Obsession

Preaching at Bent Tree often invites some wonderful and challenging conversations. Last week, I met with an alcoholic friend (13 years dry) to follow up some thoughts on idolatry from the Gideon message. As it happens, people in recovery often speak of addictions like obsessions and she wondered if obsession and idolatry were really so different and if the Bible had more to say here. We looked at Peter's mention of mastery in 2 Peter 2.19 and Paul's equivocation of greed and idolatry in Colossians 3.5, but then she added something really intriguing: her first sponsor many years ago said that if you're thinking about it before bed and if it's the first thing you think of in the morning, then it's an obsession, whatever it is. That covers drugs, porn, people and even depression.

We turned to Deuteronomy 6.
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

These words were pretty important. They even have their own name--like the way we name the Golden Rule. They're called the Shema and are still considered the most important prayer in Judaism. Jesus affirmed as much in Matthew 22.37. Look closely at verse 7: When you lie down and when you get up.

That sounds like obsession to me. Perhaps the Shema is God saying, "You are designed for obsession, and here it is. Me. You are to be obsessed with me. I alone am God. All else is idolatry. Love me with the entirety of your soul."

I get to preach again on New Year's Eve (I've had to say no to any dates beyond that for now). I'm really tempted to teach on the Shema. If I do, I want to spend some time studying this idea. If it's true, I'm betting all of our recovery folks would relate. Actually, I'm betting all the sinners would relate. What's your obsession?

P.S.
1-The Noah and Gideon messages are up and linked on the right.
2-One of our elders has a friend who struggled with depression and another who still is. We met for lunch last week and had a great talk about depression and a lot of other things (like authenticity and the church). Anyway, it got me wondering if depression is really so different. In the end, depression is very selfish and a way of self-medicating just like alcohol or pills or porn, but controlling it is a bit more nefarious. In one regard, it's an obsession. In another regard, it is a disease. Depression differs in that it was often never invited and yet those who struggle with it sometimes nurse it because it takes you to a place that is strangely comforting although despairing. It is repulsive yet one cannot leave until released.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Noah

I wrote this sonnet for the sermon I'm giving in the morning. I was having a hard time getting my arms around the story of Noah and this helped. It's a huge story about the nature of God and the nature of mankind and I'm still pretty nervous about teaching it. There are so many layers and I've chosen an application that's pretty broad and non-specific. It think tomorrow is one of those days that challenge our thinking about who God is more than a day that gives us a plan for the next week. I'm not using the poem in the sermon, but we did tag it onto the email that goes to the whole body each week.

Anyway, you need to know that the name Noah sounds like the Hebrew for comfort and there's a prophecy about that in Genesis 5.29.

Noah

His hand had stayed the furrow many days
without the tremble rain would recognize;
the oxen were resigned, the door was raised,
and thunder roared and ripped apart the skies.

A man of dirt might dream of dew and mist—
when water comes he’s thankful for the mud.
Raindrops would be blessing—never this,
the first fruits of fury and of blood.

Judgment smells like flotsam tinged with death.
Patience sounds like tide to those who wait.
Goodness looks upon all He gave breath
and Mercy says that none shall live save eight.

Alone, adrift, awake without relief,
aware that peace and Comfort come through grief.

(c) Steve Pruitt 2006

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Parting Thoughts

Sorry for the absence, but it's Student Missions Season at Bent Tree and thinks get pretty crazy, especially with summer school finishing up (I made a C+ in Greek, for what it's worth). And tomorrow, we head for the beach in the borrowed-once-again pop-up camper (a huge blessing the Housewrights have made possible!). SO, here are some thoughts for the week while I am gone:

Postmodern issues and the emerging church continue to challenge me. Thanks to Sheryl Belson for a copy of an excellent issue of The Economist. The link is here, but I'm not sure it will be around long (that's their image below). It's a great overview of changing trends and media. In addition, Mike pointed out an excellent podcast from DTS on emerging issues that features a good friend (he may not know I consider him that, so don't tell) and reader of this blog. It's here (in three parts, titled The Emerging Church Movement).

Cody, you know I agree on the humans=animals issue. But I do believe we have separated so far from that extreme we are sometimes seen as callous toward other life. I think there is ground somewhere in between that says human life is sacred because we are image-bearers, but other life is given to us as a charge and is not to be needlessly wasted, rather it is to be stewarded. I believe this is what makes the abortion issue so critical (and difficult)--a weak view here puts us only a blink away from experimentation on fetuses and the ludicrous claims of Peter Singer (as you mentioned). And, I thank God for you too!

Suzanne, I promise to write back soon, but I was thrilled to get your message! It's only fitting that a Tennessean has a cousin show up on the blog!

Amber, I think some OT classes would be great, but be sure you're ready for some of the ideas that Luke has faced. There are great professors at Milligan, but some have allowed a disbelief in the OT to creep into their teaching and will seek to explain away some of the miracles and the judgments. The chart from last post is partly intended for that issue--Jesus believed that Noah and Jonah were factual stories. To discredit the God of the OT is to discredit Jesus. SO, if you're braced for that (JP would be a good help), then go for it!

I'm teaching at BT on July 16 about Noah. Unfortunately, I have to write part of it on vacation, but I'm enjoying the study and am finishing up a sonnet that sums up some thoughts about Noah. Is it cheesy or too "birkenstock" to end a sermon with a poem (or just to bring it onscreen while I end)?

(sorry Kelly--it's just such a good adjective!)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

wdJb?

This one's not as polished as the others, but it's the most useful chart I've made lately. Have you ever considered the testimony of Jesus as a validation or challenge to your own beliefs? Our professor mentioned a handful of stories that Jesus affirms as true, so I wondered if there were other things Jesus beleieved that might be useful to our ears. The prof agreed to let me use it as an assignment, so here's my list of twelve issues people challenge and where Jesus stood on each. See what you think.

I'm tempted to try to sell these (it looks best on 11x17 paper), but I'd need to see if I need permission from the church. Be honest--would anybody buy something like this for a couple of dollars?

For you JC folk, that Jesus is located in Roselawn Cemetary.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

King

Ok, so this isn't going to be more fun. That last one shows the relationship between free will and original sin and our need for grace. This one's a little more accessible and you can look it up.

There are eleven prophecies in the gospel of Matthew where Matthew specifically points out fulfillment. They're a little weird until you see two things: One, Matthew is writing to explain how Jesus is the King of the Jews but they rejected him. The stories take place in the past and show what happened. Two, the prophecies weren't fulfilled in the way we use that word. It's more like they were satisfied. And, some of them are less about Jesus and more about how he parallels something that happened to Israel (like they were rescued from Egypt and so was he). When that clicks, they make a lot of sense, but even better, they tell a story. Matthew was using the references to Old Testament events to explain who Jesus was and to tell they story all over again in a beautiful and elaborate way.

I just finished this for class tomorrow. The story is on the right. If I get a bad grade, I'll fix this post--so don't go preaching any sermons with this yet!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Sin and Destiny

As you may have picked up from recent posts, I've spent a lot of time with this issue lately. Below is the result of that time and some significant frustration trying to create a visual flow of the issues. As it happens, many other issues only matter to certain brown boxes (like total depravity is only an issue on the left). Also, the 3 brown boxes on the left are all Christian positions. The 4th may be. The 5th (box on the right) is not. If you see any error, let me know.

Anyway, I know this is remarkably boring. I'll do better, I promise. I'm finishing the test for this class tonight (Wendy's recent post is much more authentic). But a couple of you may find it useful (I have a PowerPoint version that builds the chart as it goes--just ask). Thanks Kelly for the pic--your name is well preserved in the PowerPoint version and title slide, but no Kelly Michelle....

The tree represents original sin (am I guilty or not?). The fire represents salvation (who lights the spark and initiates--me or God?).


UPDATE: Diagram edited and replaced 6-1-06

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Wisdom

Inevitably someone asks if babies and the mentally handicapped go to heaven. Seriously. We all want to know, and I'm ready to give you the answer: Dunno. Seriously. But think about this--how would we as believers be different if God had spelled out the solution to this painful dilemma?

If you want resolution on the issue, then which pole is less offensive? If all babies are saved, then abortion becomes a benevolent and noble gift--a free pass to heaven granted only by the most loving and gracious of parents. Euthanasia as grace. Peter Singer would be validated.

If all babies perish, then abortion becomes unpardonable--the intentional condemnation of a tiny soul to the godless chasm of Hell. Miscarriages would be insurmountable. Life support for the yet unregenerate could never be terminated for the paralyzing fear that a DNR order is tantamount to damnation.

In his wisdom, He does not answer this one. He may hint, but He does not speak. Mystery, and the tension it produces, keep us diligent--and hopeful.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Tears

I have been told that seminary takes a period of “getting over” before we’re any good for ministry. Perhaps that has been the experience of some. It wasn’t true today.

As we struggled over the doctrines of original sin and limited atonement and other fancy words that make people think we loose our hearts, we turned to Romans 8 and the moment built.

There are moments teachers plan for, moments we seek to create, moments we let ourselves believe we control. But sometimes, God actually moves and we get to watch and know we had nothing to do with it.

There is great pain in the Gospel—without it, the Gospel is meaningless. There are big words to describe it, but the truth is difficult: God will save some. Many others will perish eternally. We all deserve to perish; not because we have all sinned, but because Adam did and in some mysterious way, we participate in his sin. We’re guilty.
(Before you react to that, it’s a doctrine older than the Reformation and we have all held it for centuries. Those who didn’t were considered heretics. There is debate over total depravity, but not over original sin. But this is not the point.)
Some will be saved. Many will perish. Forever. And…God chooses. Read it. Romans 8.28-30. Those who love him were called. Those who are called are justified. Those who are justified were foreknown and predestined.
(The big debate here is over how He chooses and not whether He chooses—that’s true among the Cavinists, the Arminians and the Weslyens. Those who say He doesn’t choose must do so without the support of the Bible.)
That’s when the moment came. It was visceral and sincere. With tears and a quavering voice, she pleaded, “But how can he be just? What about my friends—the non-elect—who will go to Hell? I'm not okay with this!” Others chimed in and rang out. She wasn’t the only one crying. Dr. K was silent and moved, as he allowed the moment to find its footing. And then Dan spoke.

Dan’s voice was kind and empathetic and passionate, if not slightly trembling. He started to read from Romans 9. That’s when it all came together. Paul is writing through pain—perhaps even through tears—as he explains God’s love for Jacob and rejection of Esau. Paul feels the weight of verse 19—if it is God who decides, then all are in accord with the will of God.

Here Paul turns the corner. He doesn’t answer the question. Instead, he pulls the focus back to the God we do not nor can not fully comprehend. Although it reads like a rebuke, Paul tenderly returns us to our place as humble and undeserving sinners. Sinners who have been given mercy by the Potter. But it comes with a burden: mercy reminds us of the wrath.

Paul calls it unceasing anguish. I saw it today at seminary as I watched a class weep for the lost. I continue to find my heart here. I hope I never get over it.


Tidbits
• There’s a great article here on the confusion over U2’s use of the phrase “coexist.”
• We’re going to the beach in July—we’re camping again and pretty excited ($15 a night and a much shorter drive and thanks again to T. H. for use of the camper)!
• Dad had his first epidural yesterday (yep, an epidural for a problem in his low back). So far, he’s out of his wheelchair (which I didn’t think would happen) and he asks that we keep praying!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Which Hell?

I had found myself prepared to dismiss much of the emerging church discussion. Some of the voices and thier distance from orthodoxy led me to turn my back. Then I had lunch with one.

On Tuesday, at the National Conference on Preaching with Pete and Scott, We went to eat with Doug Pagitt, a leading voice in the movement and the pastor of Solomon's Porch, kindof. As it happens, he and Pete played basketball together in undergrad and I am so very thankful to have been included. Three hours later, we finally re-entered the conference.

Doug is fascinating, both in his sincerity of pursuit and in his courage of conviction. While we differ in our views on the early expressions of Christianity and the roles of scripture and authority, it was a wonderfully stimulating discussion and at times convicting. I have held a silent belief that those on the edges would take us back to discussions of myth and would fade from the scene, but Doug changed my view. We cannot merely form our positions and step away. We must engage.

He forced me beyond my categories and it stirred things up both in my home and in my early morning Greek class. Some of the emerging leaders are challenging the ideas of orthodoxy and the expression of a single form of Christianity. Doug would be more comfortable to speak of various Christian expressions appearing in differing regions during the first few centuries. I would have been more comfortable to speak of heresy error. He would attribute the efforts of the early fathers to silence early dissenters to both fear of loss and an overt influence of Greco-Roman philosophy. In Greek on Thursday, a Latin reference led to a linguistic question I honestly thought would last only a few seconds. It lit a spark in Dr. J and I was surprised to find yet another passionate voice in facing the issues of postmodernism and the nature of truth and authority (Dr. E later that morning; I already knew about Dr. K).

It seems we have all been wanting to ignore the gospel of Judas--some have even ridiculed it. But our emerging friends are paying close attention and even embracing the questions. To those on the outside, confused by the Da Vinci code, they look like heroes. This is a discussion we must enter. An arena that cannot be ignored. As Dieter Zander echoed on Tuesday, I don't think postmodernism is the destination; it is the change to a new culture we can not yet see. If we're not careful, we will lose the ability to help frame the discussion as we move into this new place. I asked Doug about ideas of separation and judgment. He quickly went to my real question--"Do you believe in Hell?" He replied, "Which Hell--the place of the dead in the Old Testament, the chasm of Abraham's bosom or the lake of fire in Revelation?"

I fear in Doug an absence of any source of authority outside his community. He fears in me a reliance on boundaries set for a different age and a blind trust in the authorities of the past. This is a conversation that must be had. And it must be had with brothers and sisters who are sincere in their pursuit of Christ, even if we wouldn't always agree on exactly what that means. I've know for a long time that we came to seminary to prepare for the postmoderns. It seems I'm too late. Doug, if you see this, then thank you. I would love to follow up with another lunch someday--on me.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Verizon Update

At last, it only took three hours to get the router working... As it happens, most of what was on the Verizon site was invalid as was most of what was online. I have a great router even though an hour with Linksys tech support couldn't fix it either. Verizon does this strange thing with MAC cloning that lets you bypass the modem without them having to actually alter anything and it only took me two nights to figure it out... But it's working!!

I have another surgical procedure tomorrow. They're stretching (actually, breaking) my esophagus first thing in the morning. Last time, I ended up in the ER for several hours, so let's pray this one goes a bit better.

Cody, we'll chat about U2 sometime (and I'm listening to a lot of Coldplay lately). But I can't rat out my friend! Feel free to send me the research, but I'm still going to be a fan--I just won't worship them (wink)!

Prayer rquest: Craig Hamlow wants me to come speak in Alaska the same week I'm going to the Catalyst conference in Atlanta (that I've been excited about all year). He's praying it will fall through! Personally, I'm torn.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Verizon and Stuff

Sorry we're so behind, but our internet is down at home. We tried to change providers in March and found that we had to cancel our other account first (apparently we're the first ones to ever change providers and they don't feel the need to tell you they can't take over the lines for you). So, now that that's done, we spent 1.5 hours (honest) on the phone with Verizon Monday. After speaking with 8 people (honest) to see why we still had not been connected, someone said they had a hardware issue and had bumped our service ready date--without telling us, of course. However, they assure me that they may send emails out to people who don't have service. Anyway, we should be up by Monday. Somewhere in the middle of all that, the Verizon Fiber Optic people came by the house with a really sweet deal. Now it's kind of a race to see which Verizon branch (that doesn't speak to the other one) gets us set up first. Of course, the FiOS people haven't called back yet. Surprise! There. That felt good. I'll repent later.

UPDATE: 4-20-2006
Lo and behold, we had service last night when I got home. However, the modem they send is not configured to work with a router and Verizon forces the installation of proprietary software (after i was connected, I found out how to avoid that). SO, I worked until 2 trying to configure the modem to work with our router. Verizon has instructions, but they are incomplete (They leave things out, like the password you need to log onto the modem. Fortunately, you can find it through Google). But it still isn't working. Once you re-configure it, it cannot be hooked directly to the computer, so if the router setup isn't working (and it isn't), then you can't get online to do more research. You have to reset the modem and then reconnect everything. Not fun. I gave up and will begin again tonight. I'll probably have to reset my router and lose my encrypted connection to my laptop. Oh well. The good thing is it's a lot faster than they actually promise--a nice bonus since they force you through the beginner's installation and don't allow an express install (unless you think to Google it and find out about the online set-up which I didn't think to do).

But, I'm in a great mood and the trials of this week (not this one--the one I can't blog about) have actually been energizing and even encouraging.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Retreat

We're heading to East Texas this weekend for our spring retreat. We call it the crossover weekend because we bring the 6th grade and start building relationships with them--I hope to eventually link to the promo videos our interns (Seth's blog is here but he uses his hidden student worship team blog almost exclusively now; Allie doesn't have a blog...yet) made because they're just funny (look at the Emerald Nuts TV spots and they'll be even funnier). Of course, I don't have them yet, so, here are some tidbits:

1-Someone on our team--whom we all know but whose name I hate to put on the internet--accidentally forgot to finalize our bus contracts and found out about it on Friday. It made her (oops, it was a she) nauseous but made us laugh. we've given her plenty of grief and many encouraging and clever comments so she's doing much better now. Remarkably, she solved the problem even though every bus in north Texas is rented out for the race weekend. Now we just need drivers for about 17 vans!

2-We segment the 8th grade on this weekend and talk about s-e-x. The goal was to replace our old purity weekend with something the parents would have an easier time talking their kids into. We did a much better job communicating that this year. We've got over 80 8th graders coming and it's going to be very cool (I think this might be a popular topic). And the parents know exactly what we're talking about (explicit content warning on the flyer and everything). I'm still a little gun-shy (and wiser) from last year, but I'm committed. Lisa and Tim, you'll appreciate that the guy time/gal time is almost identical to what we used to do with high schoolers.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Vision

I've been listening to Andy Stanley lately. Not the Andy Stanley carefully organized in books and tapes, but the unedited Andy Stanley in an interview with the folks from the Catylst Conference. There were two points in particular that have grabbed my attention and won't let go.

First, Andy says that in the end, leaders look back on the opportunities they chased. We set goals, we plan, but we really have no control over what's coming and it is the opportunities taken that eventually define a ministry. That's freeing.

Second, he says that it is initiative that defines leaders much more than talent or intelligence. John Maxwell used to tell him to watch for staff who took ownership, who were willing to start things. Those were the ones to trust with more. It's about courage.

Which leads me to the real point. We have a little over three years left here. Suddenly, we begin to think about life after seminary. On Saturday, I asked Wendy what she saw next. Do we seek a wounded church looking for a senior pastor? Do we seek a small church ready to hire it's first pastor? Do we come on as an associate and wait patiently? Do we wait for a perfectly healthy church to look for a new pastor? Do we wait to be approached by someone seeking to plant? OR, do we start making plans now--initiating--to help plant or begin a new work....

It's a thought that haunts me. I struggle with the arrogance of those who begin churches by throwing off accountability. And yet, it is the repainting of the church that keeps it healthy and moving forward. And, if it can be birthed with the blessing of a parent church, then health can come quickly and humbly.

So, we begin a new set of questions and a new phase of life. Is there a particular region where we feel burden? Is there a particular group of people? Do we already have a vision and need to flesh it out? Are the leaders we would need already in our lives? When we came to Texas, we came with the vow that we would never again allow fear to keep us from following. My own sermon about Nehemiah 2 helped remind us of that, which is what God often does when we unfold the Word. We're starting to pray new prayers. We're ready to begin dreaming. We're not alone.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Beaver Bend

It was colder than we expected. It was more rustic than we expected. It was less kid-friendly than we expected. It was exactly what we needed. Wendy will put up some more pictures tomorrow and she may disagree in her assessment, but I believe the camping trip that we cut short was a wonderful beginning to a wonderful week.

My soul needed the walks in the dark and the outdoor cooking and the chance to walk around with a hunting knife again. My kids needed a family without computers and cell phones and a daddy who had time and could teach them things. Wendy needed a husband fully alive again. We speak often of the busyness that comes when seminary is in session, but it's only in weeks like that when we really appreciate just how difficult life had been.

A week of late mornings, laughing children, long delayed projects, a smiling Wendy and a focused Steve brings us up to date like a long unbalanced checkbook. Now we once again begin to make withdrawals and we pray that the lessons of last week stick. We pray that we not let the account sink so low before the deposits come.

It was one of the best weeks of my life.


Tuesdays 2:
1-The Nehemiah sermon is online. There is no PowerPoint--I used props on stage. It will be awhile before I tell the other part of the story.
2-My sister Patti was in town tonight and took us to dinner and then sat down at our house for a long and well cherished family catch-up session.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Escape!

Woohoo! We're off for Beaver Bend after a long Sunday preaching. Someday, I might tell you the whole story, but for now, it was a Sunday to remember.... We should be down from the web for at least a week!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Prairie Creek

I went to Prairie Creek Park today (pretend it's still Tuesday).

I was up late last night and I sat and listened to Coldplay as I rebuilt Wendy's computer and broke down yet again over Robbie. On the way to a day retreat at Paul's house, I had extra time, so I turned down Custer Road.

I drove around the park and soon found a parking detent on the east side. As I walked down a dirt path, I was struck by the design of a tree with five or so trunks. I thought, "I know he would have liked this tree. I wonder if this is where he did it...."

I tried to call Judy Sarwin to complete my morbid obsession and ask her where he was. No answer, so I tried Josh Hebert. Josh lost his sister in December, followed by his job in Austin and now his engagement. He's hurting. He aches. It was a good time to call. By then, Judy had left a message so I tried again.

Judy doesn't see the park the same way. I want to bring my bike and take a picture of the tree and the bridges. She wants to avoid it. She doesn't walk there anymore. His degree of planning is difficult to process. It makes me question why he kept us away in Dallas. I know he felt like a burden, but I wonder if he was also minimizing the potential obstacles....

I was right about the tree.

We talked about Josh and his losses and the fruitless trail of regret. Judy has struggled with it herself but she's moving past it. I'm not sure Josh is able to do that yet. That's a prayer for him--there is no satisfying the "what ifs" and they will not end. They must not be entertained.

The park is lovely. I find it serene and peaceful and will return. I'm not sure why. I needed to land the unanswered questions. I needed to feel close to Rob. It didn't make me feel close to him. It made me angry. It made me feel defeat again. Someday I will go to Judy's and read the letters. Today it is enough to mourn. The tears will be back in a minute.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Velvet

I finished Velvet Elvis last night. I've been told that Rob Bell rambles a bit and that his first book is understandably unpolished, but I disagree. Rob apparently designed his own print layout, with orange pages and subtitles for each movement; even the endnotes become part of the story. With that kind of attention to detail, it's silly to presume that the that the seeming lack of structure in any way rambles. Rather, his gentle narrative disarms. It engages your modern assumptions and your postmodern arrogance and then sells you a new view--a view of the church. A view of a battered and beautiful woman who has stood the test of 2000 years and continues on, even flourishing. And he brings you to tears in the process with truths that seem too good to be true and force you to the appendix to see if he can prove it. He says what needed saying and then he convicts you for your anger and your pride and your nearsightedness. It is a beautiful book. I hope to read it again. I hope he's at Catalyst.

I ordered five copies today to give away. GK, I'm sure you've read it, but if you haven't, then it's a must. I'd love to hear your thoughts and greatly miss the opportunity to do so regularly (maybe July).

For Lisa's List:
1-I've spent several days rebuilding Wendy's (new) hard drive. I've been enjoying it thoroughly!
2-I register for summer and fall classes on Wednesday and am nervous about how much I can take and how we'll pay for it.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Two More

Ok--I'm starting to whine, but we're really wondering what God is up to (or is it the enemy?).

This morning, Madison got up sick (again) and then the hard drive crashed on Wendy's computer (as in, "computer no longer functions"). And, I haven't mentioned it, but Dad went into a wheelchair a couple of weeks ago from an injury, but it looks like he'll never leave it. A test last week said "degenrative bone disease" and that he has worsened. We looked at pictures and stuff this weekend--the change in him over the eight years Megan has been with us was startling.

BUT, I did have a GREAT lunch with Cody. Lesson learned: communication in print is tricky--you just don't understand until you can hear a person's tone and see his face. Then you can communicate.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Tuesday Again

I'm tired and don't have anything exciting to say, so, I'm posting the obligatory two-fur:

1-My GI doctor called tonight (he's a great doctor). They got the biopsy back and I'm okay, but I do have Barrett's Espophagus. It's not cancer, but it means I'm higher risk and will need a biopsy every year or two, which is okay since I'll be having my esophagus stretched that often anyway. Apparently, I've had acid reflux for some time now and didn't know it was so bad....

2-I'm not going to read the book I have to report on Thursday. I have two things due in that class and I didn't get anything done over the weekend. So, I'm stopping where I am and just doing the other assignment. Worst case, it lowers my grade by one half a letter. I'm having to learn to let go of my GPA and worry more about what I'm actually learning. So, a seminary GPA (especially for the older students) doesn't necessarily reflect the value received.

3-Wendy's cool. You can read about our troubling weekend here. I know, this makes three, but everybody else is cheating. While I'm at it:

4-I got a personal copy of Adobe Illustrator today. We had some money left in an account at the DTS bookstore, so I did it. I've had CS2 at the office for several weeks now, but Adobe doesn't let you put a copy on the ole laptop. I'm still torn--Freehand has a lot of strengths, but so does Illustrator, even though the files are at least double the size.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Tuesday Duo

1-The Gorillas will be returning in 2006! We tried to practice Saturday, but got ice-drizzled out. Seriously, I actually skidded twice on the way to church Sunday. It wasn't much of a skid, but it was actual ice!

2-There are over 300,000 discrepancies between the 6000 or so Greek manuscripts and fragments we use to form the Greek New Testament. However, 99% of those are spelling differences and such like potato or potatoe. It remains the single-most perfectly preserved text in history, followed by the Old Testament. My prof says, "we have the original texts and more." Our scholars spend much of their effort in trimming away the excess. After that, they add punctuation and paragraphs--neither of which exist in the manuscripts. And, there are another 10,000 Latin manuscripts to wrestle through (the language that Rome would bring). So, when we read the Bible, we interpret. Always. It keeps us humble to recognize the work of centuries of scholars who have so carefully sorted through so much. And yet, no real scholar has ever attacked the Bible on the grounds of it's preservation and authenticity. That's why the DaVinci Code is thin--it tries to cast doubt on something that study would quickly dispell. Ok, I haven't read it yet. I'll probably wait on the movie.

Sorry--I was trying to be short...

Monday, February 20, 2006

Moving the Anchor

Okay, the much debated message is now online! You can get it here, or download it directly from the link to the right (way down). The "notes" file is actually the PowerPoint as a PDF file. It's all pictorial, so it may be hard to follow with the slides, but I think they help. This is from the 4th service, if that matters, it changed very little from service to service. No expectations on my end--but if you want to hear what I said, here it is.

Thanks to all who have chimed in--the feedback is truly helpful and it's a great test of my belief that a blog is a place to have a "real" and sometimes a little messy conversation (if you start cussing, I might have to edit that part ;-) ).

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Tomorrow

I just finished preparing the message for tomorrow. Seriously. I don't think I've ever spent so many hours on one message and felt like I had so little to say. I'll continue to pray, but after being up til 3 last night on it, I don't think I can make more changes. Father, use that platform tomorrow as you wish. Let your Word speak through me and let us see the future of Bent Tree as you would direct.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Fog

Woohoo! My head is slowly rising from the fog. I just finished a rather consuming exam and now only see sermon prep, missions meeting prep and being "on-call" before me for the week. Right now, I'm between class and my mandatory spiritual formation group and stopped by the library. Tonight, I actually get to run home and just play with my kids and maybe even watch a movie with my college sweetheart! APPENDED: that's after I go register the Gorillas--our soccer team!

I know that's cryptic, but this has been a rather heavy week and I'm finally past one of the big hurdles (fellow Greek students, notice that I said "past" it, not that I "passed" it).

I am excited about pulling together the sermon for Sunday. It's a topic I love and a group of people I love and a method I love (yes I still have to write it, but much has been gathered). I won't be walking straight through a text, but I will be helping our body understand the shift in worldviews that is upon us and how to be Christian in the midst of it. I don't have all the answers, but I'm excited about what I think I know and I can't wait to help us enter this conversation.

Here's my 2 Things Tuesday 2 Days Late:

1-Dad had to get a wheelchair last week due to a back injury. Please pray that it doesn't become permanent.
2-I got Robbie's poem published, kindof. DTS has an arts community site and I submitted it last month. You can see it here. Yes, I'm shamelessly seeking affirmation or for someone to tell me to stop writing poetry ;-)

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Tuesday times 1.5

1-My uncle died yesterday. He was 92. He died from pneumonia. I know it's morbid, but I think that's a good thing--to be 92 and to not die from cancer.... He's the one in the middle, about 40 years ago. My favorite memory with him was going to see his sawmill. And, he had a very cool basement. The pretty lady is Mom's big sister.
2-Someone from our church called me today (Whitney). She's writing a drama to support the sermon I'm giving on Feb. 19. I think that is amazing. At the end of the day, my passion is communication. It's the same for the creative team. How do we best communicate what we believe God wants us to say? Kewl.

3-We started reading missions applications today. 7th graders are so easy to love. We asked, "How would you lead someone to Christ?" One said, "I might do it on the bus or at lunch. I might use the bridge trick with two Coke cans and some foil." We'll probably re-write that question for next year!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Tuesday Two

1-Churchmarketingsucks.com just ran an article on an experiment from the UK where secular marketers were challenged to promote church attendance. While some things were predictable, there is a wealth of insight in their findings and observations. My favorite is this gem:
If a church can get in touch with Jesus' teachings rather than just ritual, so people actually live it out-that would appeal to me. I think people are also looking for a clear message that they could apply to their daily lives," says Wilcock.
To paraphrase, "If a church could act like Jesus, we could sell that."

2-I started reading Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell this weekend (in my spare time, right after that last post ;-)). In the first chapter he uses two analogies to enter a discussion about modernism (bricks) and postmodernism (springs). He does it so gently that defenses don't go up and he never uses the words modern or postmodern. Although the core tenets of postmodernism are antithetical to Christianity, so were many of the beliefs of modernism that we swallowed. Regardless of whether or not we buy into it, our culture has changed. There are good articles on postmodernism here. Notice this summation by Stanley Hauerwas, a prominent Christian ethicist:
I confess I take perverse delight as a theologian in the controversies surrounding postmodernism. Modernity sought to secure knowledge in the structure of human rationality, and relegated God to the "gaps" or denied Him all together. Modernity said that God is a projection of the ideals and wants of what it means to be human so let us serve and worship the only God that matters-that is, the human. Postmodernists, in the quest to be thorough in their atheism, now deny that the human exists. Postmodernists are thus the atheists that only modernity could produce.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Elements

It's on the new David Crowder CD. Listen for it. He says, "the elements of worship are inadequate." It's quite a thought--he compares worship to our drawings of the atom. They are inadequate, but they are the best we can do. We simply cannot draw something that we barely even understand, so we draw what we understand: two dimensions and nice circles.

In 3 weeks, I get to speak to Bent Tree about our values and their relationship to a new, postmodern culture and generation. My efforts will be inadequate. I'm well into the plan and the scripture, but I have no answers for what must happen in the church for it to truly speak to my generation and those that follow. As a friend said last week, "I know what we are doing isn't the answer." And yet, we don't yet know the answer.

Our generation grew up in divorced homes; now we demand time off for family. Our generation grew up without the internet; now we direct it internationally. But we aged too quickly, and those below us have moved in. We look much like them, but something happened. Somewhere during our birth, the world began to shift. Modernism began to lose its grip. Postmodernism reared its head. Between us and the next generation, it took over. We are a legacy generation. We bridged the gap. We look postmodern and yet we are not fully so--the ideas were still forming as we grew.

And the church didn't notice. As postmodernism raised its voice, the church shouted. And as it shouted, it was ignored. Many among us still don't notice. They see the changes in culture and hold onto a belief that America will return to her roots. America will not return. The philosophical underpinnings of the age of reason that birthed her have died. The worldview that once provided a basis for the logic that governed our legal system, our ethical system and our moral base has passed. Authority is no longer assumed. And neither is religion. Where once we could not fathom a sincere ethical basis without a divine foundation, we now listen closely to men like Peter Singer and his atheistic pragmatism. Where life was once sacred, it is now merely life. Mere commodity.

In that culture, which many have failed to even recognize, the church must once again learn to speak. It has to move past the assumptions that have fallen. It must find itself again--not in the liberality of emotion and mysticism, but in the bedrock faith in a risen savior, eternal son of the triune God. We must find our footing in that which does not move. Something truly ancient.

In 3 weeks I get to explain to our church that the church will have trouble with us and even more trouble with those who follow. We love the church and yet we don't understand it. It is inadequate and we know it, but we're not very forgiving. I think James understood this. I think he had lived through a worldview that collapsed and then used his ministry to redefine the church--to release it to the gentiles. You'll have to listen to see why I believe that, but in the end, it's not an answer. It's inadequate. But maybe it's all we have. Maybe that 's the point.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Fire and Brimstone

I reckon that very few ever truly come to love God as he is. Maybe I'm wrong. Jonathan Edwards was big on this. He made sure to occasionally address the reality of hell and he did so graphically. He liked to posit the image of God from Isaiah 63.3-4:
"I have trodden the winepress alone;
from the nations no one was with me.
I trampled them in my anger
and trod them down in my wrath;
their blood spattered my garments,
and I stained all my clothing.
For the day of vengeance was in my heart,
and the year of my redemption has come
It's not the language we like to hear, and yet it is God himself speaking to us. Because we ignore it, we have allowed the skeptics and atheists to own these passages and now even find them embarrassing (example).

It struck me today at lunch with Paul--all those images from the Tsunami last year and the harbors full of bodies... What did it look like outside the ark? I imagine that the population was smaller, but I'm sure that the currents sometimes concentrated the flotsam. Perhaps, God held them in the boat for a year in order for the disease to subside. It was unspeakable carnage, and yet it was God himself writing the story.

As the church, we must tell the story as it is. God has no need for our embarrassment. Only when we see him as He is do we ever really see Him. The love stands side by side with his wrath. He's much more like Aslan than George Burns or Morgan Freeman.

For Tomorrow:
1-Here are pictures and video of all the animals on Earth.
2-Here's how to be funny. It works...
2.5-Others have greatly influenced my thinking above, including Glenn Kreider and Jeff Bingham.