Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Favorite Books of 2009

I'm continuing my year-end evaluations. I know that I may be the only one interested in these lists, but they do help me to think critically about the ways in which I spend my time. So, here is my list of my best books that I read this year. But first, my disclaimers.

These books are not necessarily the best ones of 2009. They are the books that I enjoyed, that entertained me, moved me, made me smile, or made me think more than any others this year.

These were not necessarily released in 2009. They are all new to me, however. I read them all for the first time in this year.

I try very hard to not be influenced by what is popular. Consequently, I may be biased against the Hollywood blockbuster or New York Times Bestseller. But then again, maybe not.

Additionally, they are in no particular order. It is hard enough for me to come up with my 10 favorites. Ranking them would be almost impossible.
  • Randy Pausch- The Last Lecture
  • Rob Bell and Dan Golden- Jesus Wants to Save Christians
  • Brian Houston- For This I Was Born
  • WP McKay and Ken Abraham- Billy
  • Jimmy Carter- Palestine: Peace not Apartheid
  • Peter Rollins- Orthodox Heretic
  • Stephen King- Duma Key
  • John Grisham- The Summons
  • Billy Crystal- 700 Sundays
  • Mother Teresa- Love

Monday, December 28, 2009

My Kids

So, my only child has completed her first semester of college. She did pretty well overall. Academically there is room for improvement. Socially she made the transition to independence exceedingly well. From the time Molly was born I believed that when she moved away my life would get simpler. I thought that I would lose interest in young people. I would get too old and out of touch to understand them, or for them to understand or be interested in me. I was wrong.

I have always had an interest in young people. (By young people I mean those who are in their teen years all the way through young adulthood.) There have been many young people that have been important to me- and I pray I was important to them- throughout my life. These people have become like my own children. Many of them I stay in touch with to this day.

These kids- "My Kids," I call them- have all responded to my life, ministry and teaching in positive ways. Additionally, they have all been young people that I liked, and like, very much. I could make a list of them, but I am sure that I cannot faithfully do that. Someone would be offended that I included them on my list, and someone else would be hurt that they were left off. There is no way I can win at that point.

However, I can list some common traits of these people, and our relationships.
  • Everyone of my kids has been a part of my leadership life. That is, I have had the honor of being a "discipler" if you will. I was in a place of authority and they willingly followed.
  • Everyone of my kids is still very important to me. I love them. There is not a one of them that I would hesitate to call in a time of need.
  • They are or have been involved in my life beyond our "professional" experiences. Life has been shared.
  • I love my kids. My kids love me.
  • There is great respect between us.
So far there are about 12 of these special kids. I am always on the lookout for number 13.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Favorite Music of 2009

I'm continuing my year-end evaluations. I know that I may be the only one interested in these lists, but they do help me to think critically about the ways in which I spend my time. So, here is my list of my best music/albums of the year. But first, my disclaimers.

These albums are not necessarily the best ones of 2009. They are albums that I enjoyed, that entertained me, moved me, made me smile, or made me think more than any others this year.

These were not necessarily released in 2009. They are all new to me, however. I heard them all for the first time in this year.

I try very hard to not be influenced by what is popular. Consequently, I may be biased against the Hollywood blockbuster or American Idol- type pop singer. But then again, maybe not.

Additionally, they are in no particular order. It is hard enough for me to come up with my 10 favorites. Ranking them would be almost impossible.

So here we go. My list for 2009.
  • The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood
  • Bob Dylan- Christmas in the Heart
  • Stan Kent0n- West Side Story
  • 2nd Chapter of Acts/ Phil Keaggy- How the West was One
  • Peter, Paul and Mary- Peter, Paul and Mommy
  • U2- Rattle and Hum
  • Maynard Ferguson- M.F. Horn
  • Jerry Lee Lewis- Last Man Standing
  • Bruce Springsteen- The Seeger Sessions
  • Bob Dylan- Friends and Neighbors (Theme Time Radio Hour)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Family Lists: Husbands

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. Ephesians 5.25

Although sometimes I believe that we do a disservice to the idea of family by exalting a cultural definition of it as a biblical norm, there can be no doubt that families are important to the development, growth and stability of individuals, groups and societies in the world. We learn how to behave, cooperate and grow in the context of a family. Therefore, whether my particular family group is “normal” or “dysfunctional,” my family is the most important group in my life. And if that is true, I (and you as well) ought to have an idea what the Bible says about how family members should get along with one another. To that end, I offer a series of lists- The Family Lists. And because I know the role of husband as well as any of them, I start there.

Biblical suggestions for husbands:
  • Husbands are to love their wives (Ep. 5.25). Wives are not to be taken for granted, but are to be cherished, respected and cared for. In fact, the love of a husband for his wife should be similar to the love of Christ for the church. Would you die for your wife?
  • Husbands are to support and build their wives (Ep. 5.26-27). Husbands should be making their wives better people. Celebrate with your wife. Encourage her. Be her greatest cheerleader.
  • Husbands are to love their wives like they love themselves (Ep. 5.28-29). Take care of your wife like you take care of your own grooming, appearance, health and exercise.
  • Husbands should love their wives more than anything else. You should exalt your wife over your parents and their family, your job, your car, home or anything else.
  • Husbands should not be bitter or resentful to their wives (Colossians 3.19). It is easy to blame someone else for everything that goes wrong. Do not do it. Take responsibility for yourself and be kind to your wife.
  • Husbands are to be careful about how they handle their family (1 Timothy 3.12). Do not let your role in the family lead to an embarrassment from other members of the family.
  • Husbands are to be spiritual leaders in the family (1 Corinthians 14.35). Do not take this responsibility lightly. There is nothing feminine about being a spiritual example for your children, your spouse, for others. Be careful to always do what God asks. To this end…
    o Be an example in prayer.
    o Be diligent in worship.
    o Let your family see you study the Bible.
    o Encourage faithfulness to God among all members of the family.

Husbands have a difficult and important role to fulfill. It is not a job for the uncommitted or haphazard. This is a task for strong men of character who long to fulfill God’s purposes.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Favorite Movies of 2009

Its time to do my year-end evaluations. I know that I may be the only one interested in these lists, but they do help me to think critically about the ways in which I spend my time. So, here is my list of my best movies of the year. But first, my disclaimers.

These movies are not necessarily the best ones of 2009. They are movies that have moved me, entertained me or made me think more than any other movies this year.

These movies were not necessarily released in 2009. They are all new to me, however. I watched them all for the first time in 2009.

I try very hard to not be influenced by what is popular. Consequently, I may be biased against the Hollywood blockbuster. But then again, maybe not.
  • The Visitor
  • No Country for Old Men
  • Freedom Writers
  • Transsiberian
  • Ed Wood
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • Doubt
  • Run, Fatboy, Run
  • Henry Poole is Here
  • Up

Friday, December 11, 2009

For All

A rose, an angel, shepherds, star;

A voice, a message, a sign, a call-

Symbols, signs and stories are

A reminder that the Savior, Christ, came for all.

So be reminded, filled with hope,

Answer always, but especially now;

To faith he calls, in faith we grow.

Sing the news, pray and tell it loud.


The presence of God

Is the present of God.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The World Goes 'Round

So I have been thinking a lot about people, love, relationships and that sort of thing. Life is very complicated, and people are the largest complicating factor. Just when you have your relationships figured out, something changes in one of them that ultimately effects all of them. I think this is true for everyone except for the prisoner in solitary confinement and the hermit on a deserted tropical island.

As usual, I have tried to make sure that my thinking has not been meaningless rambling around in my head. I am trying to come to conclusions. I want to understand my relationships and how they work. I want them all to be better. To that end, I have made some observations and some decisions.

  • I should/ will love as many people as I can. This is true of people I already know and new people that I will meet. If it is true that love makes the world go around, I should do my part. I will be a lover of people.
  • There will always be time for my family and people that I truly love. There are a couple of implications in this statement. First of all, I cannot, and will not, be inconvenienced by my inner-circle. That is, they cannot put me out. They are a priority for me. Secondly, Since they are a priority, even if they have to wait because of some other issues, they will always be important to me. They will get their time and attention, even if they have to wait a little while.
  • New people in my life may not wait for me to get around to caring for them. There is probably a limited time-window for new people. People that I already have relationships with know that I will be there. New people may not. They may need attention and love right away.
  • I should love everyone, all the time. This is true even of people that I do not like. All people are made in God's image. Every individual is one that I should care about and love.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Hard Rock Christmas

Our family enjoys the Hard Rock Café. When we travel we try to visit a Hard Rock Restaurant. We have eaten in the Hard Rock Café in Chicago, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Memphis, Las Vegas and Orlando among others. The food is not that great: It is a little expensive and not that different from a dozen other places that are more economical. Molly likes the Gift Shop. There are all sorts of key chains, t-shirts, posters and pins reminding you how great the Hard Rock Café is. I love the memorabilia. In Memphis we saw guitars from Johnny Cash and Elvis as well as handwritten lyrics by Bob Dylan. In Las Vegas I was able to pose with wax figures of KISS in all their glory and original costumes.

But maybe the best thing about Hard Rock Café is their Mission Statement: “Love All Serve All.” I am sure that it is just a marketing tool for the multi-national corporation that is Hard Rock, but “Love All Serve All” sounds pretty Christian. And even if it is not Christian, I have a hunch that if we take it seriously we can see that it is a pretty “Christmasy” thought.

I am proposing that we all celebrate a Hard Rock Christmas this year by loving all and serving all. Here is what I mean by that:

  • Love everyone. Remember that every person, even the unlikable ones, is created in God’s image. He has asked us to love everyone. The least we can do is love the people who are around us. Open your heart. Accept others. Love them.
  • Care for everyone. Although this may seem a little unusual, or difficult to comprehend, it is not hard to be concerned for people. You will be surprised at the extent to which people around you will tell you their needs and concerns. All you have to do is be interested and express concern for others.
  • Listen to everyone. There are dozens of people in your life who are lonely. Be available to them. Be interested in their lives and what they care about. Give them someone that they can talk to, no matter what.
  • Pray for everyone. Make a list of people who are close to you. Note those you work with, worship with or commute with. Pray for missionaries and the people they minister to. Pray for those who are hurting, hungry, ill, poor or lonely. Prayer is the first step toward putting your caring and love into action.
  • Serve everyone. Loving and caring are just a few short steps from serving. When you care for someone, when you love them, and when you pray for them, you will find very soon that you want to do things for them. Send a card. Prepare a meal. Make a call. It is not as hard to serve others as you might think.

Several years ago I became friends with one of the greeters at Wal-Mart. We would chit-chat as I entered or left the store. During bad weather I walk in the store for exercise. She and I would have daily talks about weather, how busy the store was or what I was shopping for. She learned that I was a pastor and sometimes I introduced my family. Then one day our relationship changed. I got to the store and said, “Hi. How are you today?” Julie said, “My husband died suddenly last week. I am so upset.” In an instant our relationship changed. I was able to listen to and pray for Julie right in the entry of the store because I had let her know that I cared about her.

This Christmas you can do the same. You may not be Hard Rock Café, but you can Love All and Serve All.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Gifts and Objects

Recently I have come to truly appreciate the online community of social networking. I have connected with old friends from high school and college. I have met new people with similar interests and hobbies. I have networked with colleagues and associates in ways that were previously impossible.

I have a Facebook page and a lot of friends. I keep a MySpace page, although I am much less faithful to it than I used to be. I also blog (as you well know). All of these things have been good for me. It lends some discipline to my life. All of this online activity has had a further, and unexpected, positive effect on me as well. It has caused me to expand my ministry.

Several weeks ago a friend from high school emailed me and asked for me to pray for his ill father. Just a couple of weeks ago another friend- this time from college- contacted me to ask that I pray for his wife who was going through a cancer scare. I think that this sort of "prayer requesting" is a great use of new social media. And when someone makes this sort of request of me I do not feel used or taken advantage of. I truly believe that that is why I am here.

You see, I believe that people are gifts to be cherished, not objects to be used. Our world has too often turned that around. We use people to our advantage. We get what we can from them and then we move on. We resist making any sort of emotional attachment so that the separation that is bound to come will not be painful.

We see this in the high divorce rate. Individuals within a marriage use one another and then leave. It is a commitment-phobic world that we live in. We know that someone will use us, so we work really hard to use them first. This is all so wrong!

You and I ought to work to change this. We should cherish people, all people. We need to love and value others whether they help us or not. Whether we can use them, or get something from them, we are to be gracious, loving, forgiving and accepting to people.

I am going to cherish as many people as I can today. How about you?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Weekly Prayer Thought

The LORD bless you and keep you;

The LORD make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The LORD lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”’ Number 6.24-261

Many worship services are concluded with those words. This is the benediction that God instructed Moses and Aaron to leave with the people. You have heard these words before. Perhaps you have spoken them to/over a loved one.

A benediction is a blessing that one Christian leaves with someone else. You see, Christians are blessed by God, and are encouraged to be a blessing to others. One way that we can do this is by praying for others. It is important that we do not forget to lift up our friends, family members, co-workers and brothers and sister in Christ up in prayer. Another important aspect of our prayer for others is blessing them. That is, we are to declare the blessing of God on other people.

For some this is a difficult thing. Who am I, some think, to confer some special spiritual blessing on someone else? The Christian is supposed to be humble, after all. We should never be so audacious, we think, as to think of ourselves to be spiritually superior than others. However, when we are in Christ, we are empowered by him and filled with the Holy Spirit. We are given authority to act on behalf of Christ himself.

Here is the good part: When a Christian confers a blessing on another- whether they be Christian or not- God confers the blessing. It is a mystery of the Christian faith. It is a miracle of the work of God.

So when worship ends, and I raise my hands to the assembled congregation, and I look at those who are seeking the face of God, and I make eye contact with those in need, and begin to say those words, "May the Lord bless you..." I know that he does. He has blessed you. He has blessed me. He is blessing us.

The Practices of the Christian Faith: Thanksgiving

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5.18

The American tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving is not a Christian holiday. Thanksgiving has its roots in the Christian (puritan) celebrations of the earliest settlers to the American continent, but it was not until the presidency of Abraham Lincoln in the 1860’s that Thanksgiving was made a national holiday. There is not Thanksgiving on the Christian calendar. And yet the Bible enjoins us over and over again to be thankful.

You see, being thankful is something that we are to practice all the time. We are not to limit our gratitude to God to a particular season of the year. We are called to thank God at all times, in all situations. Of course, it is easy to make all these statements. We know intellectually that these things are true. However, in practice, an attitude of thankfulness is not as easy as one might think.

Since thanksgiving is required, let’s consider some ways that we can learn to be thankful.

  • Make a list of things for which you are thankful. Begin with some simple things like family, home, food, shelter, friends.
  • Practice being thankful. Recognize that we can be thankful in everything. God has given us all we need to live, to grow and to thrive. Thank him for all these things.
  • Learn to thank others for all that they do in your lives. There are people who care for you, love you, look up to you, and whom you look up to. Be sure to thank them all.
  • Tell others about what God has done for you. Be thankful and let others know that you are thankful. A spirit of thanksgiving is contagious. When you share your gratitude with others they will get grateful.
  • Commit yourself to being more thankful every day. Decide that each day this week you will express thanks to one person. Next week thank two people each day.
  • Spend time each day thanking God. It may just be a few minutes, but make it a priority to share your gratitude with the Lord.
  • Look for things to be thankful for. Pay attention to the little things in life and be grateful for them.
  • Realize that everything in your life comes from someone or somewhere else (God). Any good thing that happens is from Him. This will help you develop an attitude of thankfulness.
  • Gratitude should be a discipline for Christians. That means that we should not only think about thanksgiving in November. We should cultivate an attitude of thanksgiving. Each of us should learn to be thankful in every part of our lives. I am going to be more thankful during this Thanksgiving season. I hope that you will join me.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Thoughts on Time, Part III

I am opposed to always being in a hurry. Now, I know that there are times when time is of the essence. There are situations in which we must move quickly and cut corners. If you are a runner, or a stock car driver, in fact, your whole life is about going faster and getting things accomplished more quickly. But for most people, most of the time, and even for everyone some of the time, we should slow down.

One of the ways that we need to get calm and slower is in our conversation. We are always trying to "cut to the chase" (a phrase that is completely over-used by everyone- including myself). We have power lunches and "stand-up" meetings because we do not want to take the time to talk about things. We are too busy, in too big a hurry.

Here is one practical way to change the world. If you do what I suggest, you and everyone you know will have to slow down, smell the roses and enjoy life.


It is too simple to be profound. But that's all there is to it. Have a conversation. Spend some time shooting the breeze. Sit on the porch with a friend and see what happens. And do not short change the conversation. Do not fall into the trap of inserting the yadda-yadda-yadda. Tell the whole story. Give details. Do not worry about how long the story takes. Enjoy the conversation.

Here are a few suggestions for enjoying time, conversation, family and friends.
  • Turn off the television during dinner. Talk about what happened during the day. Play the good thing, bad thing game. Each person tells one good thing and one bad thing that happened during the day.
  • Next time, instead of watching a video, play a board game. Talk, laugh and spend time together.
  • Do not go to the movies, but instead go bowling or roller skating or miniature golfing. Instead of watching someone else's life you will be living your own and creating great stories for the next story session.
  • Practice giving details. Don't gloss over the finer points. Share colors, smells and sounds with others. Bring your listeners to the place where the events took place.
  • In the evening, before turning in, discuss the events of the day. Review what happened. Evaluate things. Then spend some time planning for tomorrow.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thoughts on Time, Part II

There are a lot of other things that need to be considered in relation to time. For example, time really does seem to fly by when you are having fun. And tedious tasks tend to make time creep along forever. There are 24 hours in every day, yet Mondays seem much longer and weekends are always too short.

It occurred to me the other day, however, that there is probably a correlation between time and money. This thought is based on a few observations.
  • To begin with, when time is at a premium- and for me that is most of the time- I would rather invest money in a situation than time. Time is precious- often more precious than my time.
  • Money can be replaced. Time cannot. Once time has elapsed, it is gone forever. I would rather lose my resources than days, months or years.
  • People who have plenty of money do not have enough time. They work hard to accomplish great things, and when they do, they must commit much time to maintain their great things. These people are very often rewarded for their efforts. They work long hours and many days and years, but there is very little free or leisure time for them.
  • People who have no money have plenty of time. Those who do not have resources often do not have jobs, they do not have amenities, there are no family outings, no meetings to attend. In short, those with limited resources and assets have all the time that they need.
All of these things are somewhat problematic, especially when you have no time or no money. But remember this: If you wish you had more time, you might have to give up some of you cash.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thoughts on Time, Part I

I have often heard people talk about quality time vs. quantity time. The idea is that there is not enough time to balance everything- work, church, family, home, leisure, hobbies- so something has to suffer. From these constant constraints and demands on time we get all sorts of conflicts. Everyone, it seems, feels guilty because of their lack of time.

There are scores of programs, plans and ideas to help people manage their time. Schedulers and planners are a huge industry in the USA. It seems that there is always a best-selling book or two devoted to time management. People want to speed-read, eat fast food and use the express lane at the supermarket. Hurry, is the mantra of the 21st century. (By the way, have you noticed how slowly microwave ovens cook these days?)

As a result, we have too often bought into the idea of quality time with people since we believe we cannot invest quantity time. Our children will be fine, we think, if we focus on them intensely for the limited time we have to give them. The main problem with this is that it serves mostly to salve the conscience of the one who is limiting his/her time. I feel better about my lack of time and attention if I convince myself that the time I am giving is of exceptional quality.

What a crock!

Look at this issue from the perspective of the one who is on the receiving end of the time. No matter how focused and intent someone is, if they are limited in their time for us, that is what we know and notice. No child has ever thought, "That 30 minutes with dad was the best part of my week." They are more likely to enjoy the 30 minutes, but long for more time.

And that is the whole point. To the receiver love is always equal to time. I know how much I am loved by how much time and energy and person gives to me. When I am dismissed as an after thought, I know that I am relatively unimportant. When a person invests hours with me, cultivating a relationship, I understand that I am loved.

What does this all mean? Do not get caught up in the lie that there is an acceptable substitute for time. There is not. Prioritize your life so that you give your time to the people and places that you love. The people around you believe that you love them in proportion to the time you spend on them. So have a conversation. Go to a show. Play a game. Spend some time with someone you love.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Weekly Prayer Thought

Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. Luke 6.12

I have often wondered whether or not I pray often enough, or long enough, or passionately enough, or... Well, I'm sure you get the idea. The thing is, I'm pretty sure that my prayers are anemic at best, and probably pathetic in light of what Jesus has set for us as an example. Even though he was God incarnate, Jesus was an impressive pray-er.
  • There were times when he prayed all night long. (Luke 6.12)
  • He had special places where he would pray- like a mountain. (Matthew 14.23)
  • He prayed early in the morning. (Mark 1.35)
  • He prayed by himself. (Mark 1.35)
  • His praying was an example for others, especially the disciples. (Luke 9.18)

It is easy to get discouraged if we spend too much time comparing ourselves to Jesus in the area of prayer. We should, rather, see his life-pattern as an inspiration for our own prayer times and emphases. Let's not get hung up on how we fail to live up to his life, but seek some easy, practical ways we can become more like him.

  • Pray for a little bit longer this week than you did last week. Do not over-do it by trying to stay up all night Wednesday praying. In fact, it may be too much to pray for an hour a day.
  • Find a place where you can pray regularly. Some options might be your living room, bed room, car, office. If you can, devote a special place for prayer. There may be a tree or a bench in the park. Find a location that can be your holy ground.
  • Designate a certain time to pray, and devote it to the Lord everyday. It might be early in the morning, after lunch or just before bedtime.
  • Learn to pray by yourself. Get quiet and listen for God. Prayer is powerful and can change your life if you are in a position to really push through with God.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

All You Need

I have two confessions to make.
  1. I am a very emotional person.
  2. I do not let people know or see my emotions.
Generally speaking this is not a problem. However, it recently occurred to me that there are probably many people who have no idea what I truly think of them or their relationship with and to me.

Without even knowing it, this first manifest itself when I was in high school. I have always been something of a class clown. I have a smart remark or a joke to make about everything. Part of my humor is to seem completely serious. There have been many times in my life when people had no idea that I was teasing when I said something. I have unintentionally hurt more feelings than I ever care to know.

Today, I work really hard to not be hurtful. I label my teasing as teasing. I try to seem more "funny" as opposed to just saying funny things. I am making progress. But there are very few people that I tell about my love for them.

I think it is only my close family that I tell how much I love them. I say it a lot. Every phone call ends with, "I love you. Goodbye." I greet my family with my love. I speak so that they will never forget. I want there to never be a doubt for them about my love. I do not want to ever think, "I wish I would have said it more." I would much rather say it too much than not enough.

And that brings me to the problem. If other people do not know that I love them, isn't that worse than not loving them at all? It seems like it is almost withholding love. I have this gift for you, but I am not going to tell you about it. You will never know it exists.

I never want to be a person who over-uses love. I do not want my wife to think that she is in the same category with my favorite pizza or my barber. But I think it is time that caution be loosened up a little bit. It is time that I tell people how I really feel. Let the love flow.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

To Each His Own

I realized awhile back that I do not treat everyone the same. I have always felt like I was an open-minded person with very few prejudices. I think that all people are made in the image of God and have great value as his children. I have always believed and taught these things. I am proud to be a citizen of a country that has as a cornerstone of its heritage that all men are created equal.

And then it hit me that I have favorites. There are some people that I like better than others. In fact, there are some people that I do not like at all. I do not like admitting that, but there is nothing that I can do about it. My friend describes such people as EGR's- Extra Grace Required. These people are different from my favorites not because they are inherently different, but because of the way they respond to me and the way I operate.

  • I play favorites with those people for whom I am a favorite. That is to say, when I give attention to someone, if they repay that attention, I remember that.
  • I have an agenda for my life. There are things that I want to accomplish for myself, my family and the people around me. I respect people- and invest in people- who help me to accomplish these goals.
  • There are some people who have great potential, and are not afraid to meet that potential. They take chances and work to do God's work. People with great potential will get more of my attention.
  • Some people have a lot of work to do. Their lives are confusing, messy, hard and somewhat difficult for me to believe. These people get more of my attention.
  • In am willing to invest my time and energy in those people who are willing to spend their time and energy with me.
  • I give more time and attention to people who are especially vulnerable. That is, they are hurt, rejected or needy in some way. They have needs that I can work toward meeting.
  • I treat people differently who want to be treated differently.
So, I will not feel bad about the time I spend with some people. They are the people who want to spend time with me. I will continue to love those who love and long to be loved. I will lead those who want to be led. I will care for those who wish to be cared for and care for me in turn. I will invest in those in whom we will see the most return.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Weekly Prayer Thought

What God has cleansed you must not call common. Acts 10.15

One of the best times to develop your prayer life is at meal times. In Acts 10 Peter had a vision about all the foods that he could and could not eat. God's instruction to Peter was that if he had cleansed a food, it was eat-able. This should mean for all Christians that they should pray before eating. I know that this does not always seem practical or essential, but a great blessing will be lost if you do not get into this habit. And the sooner the better. So here are some thoughts, guidelines and suggestions for meal time prayers.

  • In public, or with others who may not be comfortable with praying, just silently bow your head and pray. This should only take a few seconds. Many people will be surprised to see you pray. Some will be encouraged by it and pray themselves.
  • In a group, make prayer a positive and fun thing. Use the "thumbs up" sign. Everyone at the table should put up one thumb. The last person to raise a thumb gets to pray.
  • At home, take turns praying for meals.
  • Use some familiar prayers, "Be present at our table, Lord," or "God is great." Pray in unison and enjoy the community that your family is.
  • Be original with your meal-time prayers. Include thanks for the day, petitions for protections and guidance. Pray for sick family members or friends.
  • At school, include some friends and classmates in your meal prayers. There is great power and fun in praying together.
  • In a restaurant, include your server in your prayer ask her/ him if they would like you to pray for them. Or, you can invite them to join your prayer.
Make praying for your food a habit. Pray before you snack. Pray while you are shopping for food. Pray for the food of others around you who are not praying. (When you do this, be sure to pray for the eaters, as well as the food they are eating.)

You can never pray too much. Everyone at least has a memory of meal time prayer. Use that to your advantage and pray. Pray. Pray.

PRAYER: Sometimes, Lord, I forget to pray before meals. Help me to remember. And God, make my meal-time prayers not only an act of obedience to you and your word, but make it a wonderful time of communion with you. Amen.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Smell Phone

So the other day my mother called me while I was still in bed. She woke me from a sound sleep. Its kind of a game with us. We sometimes call each other early in the morning. If you wake up the other person, you win. My mom won that day. As we were talking it occurred to me that is was a good thing that she could not smell my breath through the phone. I had an especially significant case of morning breath.

And then it hit me. The cell phone is potentially the most powerful thing in the world. The iphone has taught us so much about what a phone can do. For that matter, my simple phone has an mp3 player, a calendar, camera, alarm clock and a lot of other things that I do not know about. A smart phone can surf the internet and communicate around the world in multiple ways. But I believe there is potential for a "genius phone." A genius phone is so good that it actually meets real human needs. It is practical.

Let me suggest some applications for the Genius Phone (all of which are probably realistic).
  • Blood Pressure Monitor. Electronic blood pressure devices are getting smaller and smaller. Put it on my phone.
  • Heart Rate Monitor. It will let you know how effective your cardio workout is.
  • Glucometer. Measure your blood sugar in a convenient, pocket-size meter that is always with you.
  • Pregnancy Test. Probably possible, but you probably don't want to talk to your sister after you have urinated on your phone.
  • Pedometer. Since your phone is perhaps attached to your belt, use it to measure your steps, distance, speed and calories burned.
  • Universal remote control. Use your phone to control you television, surround sound, stereo, dvd player and more. A convenient feature is that when you answer your phone the tv automatically mutes itself.
I know I live in a dream world, but what a dream it is.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Practices of the Christian Faith: Meditation/ Silence/ Solitude

What a world we live in. All around us we are reminded that we are not alone. The alarm wakes you up in the morning with people talking, singing, and laughing. Of course, you need to check the morning news and the weather report. It is important to know who won last night’s game. After getting dressed and ready for the day, you may get in your car and head off to work. Often there is music and talking on the radio or cd player. Often I come across people with earbuds in. The Ipod invades even your most, quiet alone time. For too many people, there is no quiet, alone time.

When God revealed himself to Elijah (1 Kings 19.11-18) he did it in a most unusual way. God was not in the wind, the earthquake or the fire. God was not in the big and dramatic events. God spoke with a “still, small” voice. I am concerned that many people are never in a position to hear from God because they are never in a place of quiet.

I have grouped meditation, silence and solitude because they are similar and each practice will help you fulfill the others in your life. For example, when you meditate on God’s word, the Bible, often it causes you to be silent. You are moved to quiet while contemplating what God has to say to you. Additionally, you will often find that solitude, being alone, is a key to meditation.

  • Meditation. There is nothing unusual or creepy about meditating. Too often we Christians have forfeited meditation to Eastern religions. Protestants have often thought that meditating was “too Catholic.” But let me encourage you to spend time contemplating God’s word and his work. Consider what he has said and what he has done. Focus your mind on his glory and the hope that he has given you. Do this regularly. “I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways.” (Psalm 119.15)
  • Silence. I have already made a case for being silent so that you can hear God, but even if that were not a benefit of silence, you should still do it. Silence is good for you even if you are not a Christian. Be quiet for awhile and realize the restorative powers of your brain. “My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.” (Psalm 62.5)
  • Solitude. It is true that there is great value in Christian fellowship. We are encouraged and built up by being around other believers. But, there are times when there is no better thing than to be alone. God created us to fellowship with others, but we are also equipped to be built-up, restored and enriched when we are alone with God.

Your first attempts at meditation, silence and solitude may be a little uncomfortable and less than satisfying. Do not be discouraged. Do not quit. God will minister to you and bless you as you spend time with him.

Weekly Prayer Thought

Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. Matthew 18.19

A thought occurred to me on Sunday as we were praying in worship. I know that when we have prayer time I am really praying. I know this because I am saying the words. My mind is involved in what is happening. My lips and mouth are forming the words and verbalizing them. I know that when that is happening I am praying. However, that is not always the case.

For example, there have been times in my life, in a worship service, when someone else is saying the prayer, that I "check out." That is, there are times when my mind wanders. I get concerned about what is going to happen later in the day. I worry about what someone said to me, or how my feelings were hurt. I drift in and out of prayer. Maybe I am the only one who does this, but I have a hunch that you may struggle with this as well.

My goal is to be fully "engaged" in prayer. By this I mean that when I am praying, I want to be completely praying. When I am joining my heart and prayers to the prayer of someone else, I want to be paying complete attention to what they are saying. I want to add my prayers to theirs.

I can do this by:

  • Not only listening to the prayers of someone else, but also praying along with them. This could include praying completely different words to quietly to myself.
  • Praying for the one who is praying. When Christians pray for one another powerful things happen. Think how much more effective we could be if we prayed for pray-ers.
  • Learning to discipline my mind. When I am focused on the Lord, other things should take a back seat.
  • Practicing being "engaged" by praying with other people more often. Join or start a prayer group and learn to pray with others.
So remember, prayer is not rest time in the middle of a worship service. In fact, prayer time should be war time. Let's get ready for battle.

PRAYER: Father God, I want to pray to you. I long to join my heart, my prayers with those of my Christian brothers and sisters. However, I sometimes lose my focus. Help me. Teach me to focus on you. In Jesus' holy name I pray. Amen.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Three L's

Three things:

First of all, a significant contributing factor to our current economic difficulties in the US is the selfishness of individuals. Greed has caused people to look out only for themselves and their own interests. Consequently, people have bankrupted themselves trying to get ahead (or catch up). Meanwhile, millions of Americans are doing alright and are relatively unconcerned about those around them and their struggles.

Secondly, if everyone would pay attention to the needs of others, and work toward meeting those needs, everyone would be cared for. I know that this sounds Marxist, but it is a simple solution to a very complicated problem.

Finally, for those who consider themselves Christians, caring for others is a simple sign of obedience to the teachings of Jesus. He taught us to give to the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked and more.

So here are some thoughts. Take them as you like. This is just my attempt to highlight what I call the three l's.
  • The Least. We should always be on the lookout for people who are "under-resourced." This is the new way to talk about the poor. People who are marginalized by our society are the most vulnerable not only to poverty, but also to poor health, inadequate health care, inadequate social services, hunger and insufficient housing (this list could go much longer).
  • The Last. There are some people who just always get pushed out of the way. It may have nothing to do with economic vulnerability, but everything to do with health issues, mental health concerns, social criteria or family situation. Unfortunately, race, ethnicity, gender, religion and education level still play a very important part in this problem.
  • The Lost. As a Christian, one of my missions is to get as many people to follow Jesus as I can. A previous generation of Christians called these people the lost. Jesus said that his mission was to save the lost. My purpose is to reach out to those who do not yet have a relationship with Christ.
It's a tall order. I am sure that this one will not be completed in my lifetime. But, it is definitely something that I should be working on and working toward. Everyone, Christian or not, should be reaching out with love and acceptance to the least, the last and the lost.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Saying Goodbye

The hardest thing that most of us will ever do is to say goodbye. We dread the time when a friend or loved one moves away. We do not like our child's first day of Kindergarten. We are heartsick at the death of a parent. Everyone is hurt by the goodbye's of divorce and family separation. Goodbye is hard. It is maybe the hardest.

But, I am beginning to have a new perspective. What if goodbye, painful though it may be, is actually good. Of course, the first thing you notice at that thought is that the word good is contained within the goodbye. Although the derivation of interesting tidbit comes from wishing someone "God's blessings," or God be with you," it does not hurt to think of good when we are saying goodbye.

Here is why I think that painful, heartfelt goodbye's are good.
  • When we hurt in a good bye it demonstrates the value of the person we are leaving in our own emotional universe. The pain we feel is actually an affirmation of the love that we have for another.
  • Tearful goodbyes remind us that we have the capacity to care for others. Our world, our society and our own personalities call us to insulate ourselves from caring about anyone else. When we hurt, it is a sign that we are still fighting against selfishness.
  • The emotions that we try to resist at goodbye's are proof that we are completely human. Only humans can know emotions in this way.
  • Painful goodbyes remind us of our dependence on other people. We cry because we are afraid that the one leaving cannot be replaced. What will I do without that loved one?
Goodbye's are not easy or fun. But we can learn from them. We should embrace them. And we should experience them to the fullest.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Weekly Prayer Thought

Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish’s belly. And he said:

“ I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction,
And He answered me."

Jonah 2.1-2

The Bible is full of stories like the one about Jonah. Jonah, as you remember, was disobedient to God. He refused to preach where God called him to go. As a result, God caused a fish to swallow Jonah. While in the fish, Jonah finally came to his senses and repented. He turned to God, prayed and agreed to do what God had originally called him to do. This story, like so many others, includes an instance of a person praying and receiving an answer from God. Jonah prayed. God forgave him and the fish threw him up.

We can learn a lot from this story. We should pray when we have needs. We should be encouraged by the stories of God's faithfulness to his people. There should be little doubt for us as to the importance and the effectiveness of prayer. In recent years there has been a renaissance of sorts in the church toward prayer. There have been some movements that have arisen designed to emphasize prayer and the Christian's need for it. Each of these is significant in it's scope and impact, and many of them are derived directly from Scripture.

  • Prayer Marches (March for Jesus). These events are large public gatherings in which Christians join together to march/walk the streets of their community to sing, worship, pray and praise God. These marches are bold proclamations of Jesus' Lordship in a community.
  • Prayer Walks. Although these are very similar to Prayer Marches, the scope is often much smaller. In fact, individual Christians and small groups walk through their neighborhoods and lift in prayer those who live and work among them.
  • Concerts of Prayer. This event is a large gathering of many Christians from different churches and denominations. It is much like an evangelistic rally without the preaching. The emphasis is on all the Christians praying together as the body of Christ.
  • Prayer Rooms. There are churches who are devoting space in their churches for prayer. These rooms are open and accessible to all people all the time. There are no business meetings or classes in these rooms. They are devoted completely to prayer.
  • 24-7 Prayer. A more recent phenomenon is round-the-clock prayer. There are congregations who are participating in prayer and worship all the time. They gather at all hours every day to pray and worship the Lord.
All of these are valuable and inspiring methods for prayer. I encourage you to try some, or all, of these. Try what God has in store for you when you trust him with your prayer life.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I long for your presence in my life, o Lord. I want to know more of you. I want to know more about you. Teach me the many ways that I can get the information that I long for. Help me to find the methods of prayer that fit me best, and are most beneficial for me and your Kingdom. In Jesus' name I make that prayer. Amen

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Four Most Important Things

One of the themes of my life has been what I call "the four most important things." I believe that these things are all essential to a successful life. You cannot grow and succeed as a human, and certainly not as a Christian, without these four elements in your life.

Careful attention must be paid to each one. There is not one that is more important than the others. Likewise, you should not try to start with only one of these things. You must jump in with both feet and get a little bit of all of them.

The Bible is full of admonitions and examples on each of these things. History is full of accounts of people whose lives are enriched by these four items. You will find the same to be true for you.
  • Bible study. Even if you are not a Christian believer, the Bible is the greatest piece of literature ever produced. Western civilization has been formed by the stories and teachings of the Bible. Whether this (USA) is a Christian nation or not, it is hard to understand our history and culture without a basic knowledge of the Bible. And for the Christian it is even more important. To know God, you must know what is in his book.
  • Prayer. No one should be without prayer. There should be time everyday devoted to prayer. In prayer we build a relationship with God, even as we get in touch with ourselves. Prayer is not a recitation of our wish list for God to fulfill, but a way for us to establish communication with someone greater than ourselves.
  • Fellowship. It is important that people spend time with one another. Humans were built to be in relationships. We are social beings. Christians, especially, need the support that can only be gained from other Christians. Surround yourself with like-minded people when you need to accomplish something (a team), or overcome something (support group, 12-step group). Fellowship is crucial.
  • Ministry. Take all of the good stuff in your life, and share it with someone else. The only way to survive is to reach out to others. Feed the hungry. Care for the sick. Shelter the homeless. Clothe the naked. You will be surprised at how much you gain from doing just a few simple things for someone else.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

In Praise of Nooma

I am not sure when I first heard about Nooma videos. There was some talk. That's all I remember. Someone said that the videos were cool. I don't know who it was. I can't tell you when it was. Then someone (I think it was Jeff Newton) told me I should read Velvet Elvis, by Rob Bell. So I did.

The book was good, but didn't get me too excited. Bell has an interesting approach to the church, to Christianity in particular and faith in general. He looks at the big picture of things, but also sees the tiniest detail at the same time. I liked that. That is about the time that I realized Rob Bell, author of the book, was also the person behind the Nooma video series. I decided it was time to try one out.

I went to my local Christian store where I found a video called "Rain." I brought it home and watched it with my wife. I was immediately hooked. In Rain, Bell is carrying his toddler son on his bike as they hike through the woods. When they get as far away from their cabin as they can get, a storm begins. Naturally the son is terrified. During the whole trip back father tries to assure son that everything will be fine. Daddy is in charge. Finally, Bell makes the comparison to our Father, God, caring for us as his children. It was powerful. I was hooked.

There are currently 24 films in the series. They are all rather short (10-15 minutes). Some of my favorites include Rain, Lump, Luggage and Dust. They are all available at any Christian store or online at Each video comes with Scriptures and discussion guides for groups.

I have used nearly all of these films with various kinds of groups. Discussion is almost always good. The quality of these videos is excellent. Bell is good as the narrator and the stories that are told, both by him and by the images we see, are dramatic and appropriate. It is good to see that there are Christians who are using their gifts in very creative ways.

The Christian faith is clearly spoken in these films. It is not the "in-your-face" faith of fundamentalist preachers from an older generation, but it is a completely orthodox, Christian account of the world we live in.

Nooma is a kind-of corruption of the Greek word, pneuma. In the New Testament the pneuma is the Holy Spirit and also the breath of God. Pneuma is another word for wind. There is a fresh wind from God that blows through these videos and makes them worthwhile watching.

I recommend these films highly. Watch them and be challenged. Watch them and be entertained. Watch them and grow.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Weekly Prayer Thought

Sometimes I am afraid that we make too much of prayer. By this I mean that we worry about what to say and how to say. We think too much about how long we should pray, or where we should pray. We think about the language we use in prayer and worry about what other people will think of us as we pray. We do not want anyone to think that we are weird, unusual or out of touch with the real world.

But then we also worry about what God might think about us. Does our prayer meet his expectations? Have we met all of the biblical criteria for prayer? Would our prayers be considered effectual and fervent? (James 5.16) And who do I think I am anyway? What right do I have to talk to the Creator of the universe, the Lord of all that is?

I have one word of suggestion and then another that leans toward a teaching. First of all, stop thinking so much about praying and start praying. You can study prayer for eternity. There are literally thousands of books in the English language on prayer. You can learn a lot about prayer from these books. You can listen to sermon and you can go to seminars. But you will never truly learn to pray until you pray. You will not fulfill God's plan for your prayer life until you pray. So what are you waiting for? Pray!

Secondly, use the Bible as a pattern for your prayers. It is God's Word, after all. There are many passages in the Scripture that you can use as a pattern for prayer. You can customize these prayers to fit your own needs, but I believe that nothing will please God more than for you to pray his word back to him.

There are many passages in the Bible that work well at this point, but some of the simpler ones include many of the Psalms (they are songs that we were used as prayers) and

  • Ephesians 1.17-23
  • Colossians 1.9-10
  • Philippians 1.9-10
  • Philemon 4-6
  • Romans 15.5-6
Do not get too concerned about this prospect. Let me demonstrate how praying the Bible can work. The following is from Ephesians 3.16-21. I would suggest that you pray this prayer each day for the next week. I have left a blank for you to insert the name of a friend or family member that you will be praying for. The text of the passage itself has been changed very little. Good luck and good praying.

PRAYER: I pray that God would grant ___________, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in __________ heart through faith; that ________, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that __________ may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Best Rock/ Music Movies

It is a favorite thing of mine to make lists. If you have read this blog for very long you have figured that out. I keep track of things so that I can make lists. I have compiled lists of favorite concerts, favorite movies, favorite hamburgers and way more than that. (You should pray that you never get to read some of my more personal lists.)

Many people in the media have learned that lists are very popular. In fact, I believe that USA Today owes much of its existence to the bulleted list. Every paper and magazine formulates lists; Best and worst dressed, Newsmakers of the year, Best new reality tv series' of the year. You get the idea.

This is my very personal list of two of my favorite topics: Movies and music. These are my favorite movies about or containing music. These are not necessarily documentaries, but they are filled with music, or music is a central theme of the movie. I make no claims to the intrinsic value of the movie or the music contained therein. Only that the movie, and the music were enjoyed by me. You have no doubt seen most of these films. If you have missed some, look them up. You will not be sorry.

One last thing: Do not get excited. I have not listed these in any order. They are not arranged according to quality, musical style or preference.
  • The Last Waltz. This is my favorite concert movie. It is the final concert of The Band with many guests. Watch this movie. Directed by Martin Scorsese.
  • This is Spinal Tap. The original "mockumentary" is the funniest rock movie ever made. Rob Reiner directed an hilarious film that has become a cultural phenomenon.
  • Almost Famous. This is a semi-autobiographical story about how one young boy became a writer for Rolling Stone Magazine.
  • A Mighty Wind. A mockumentary from the mind of Christopher Guest. Think Best in Show with folk music. Although everything is completely tongue in cheek, do not take the music for granted. It is good!
  • Walk the Line. This is not only a great music movie, it is a great movie. The story of Johnny Cash and June Carter is wonderfully played out and the music is not bad.
  • The Buddy Holly Story. I believe that Buddy Holly was the true King of Rock and Roll and Gary Busey was never better.
  • La Bamba. Lou Diamond Phillips plays Ritchie Valens. This movie, with music by Los Lobos, is wonderful. Did Phillips ever make another movie?
What movies would you add? What ones do you disagree with?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Some Thoughts on Parenting, Part 2

In my last post I made much ado about my "empty nest." I complained about the woes of working hard for 18 years and then it all just goes off to college. Several people have commented on what the future might look like for me. Others have reminisced about the past. You have caused me to think further on my plight as a "childless" father.

What follows, then, is some further reflections on being a parent. Although I seem to be expanding my definition of fatherhood. I am seeing fatherhood in terms of my own child who has gone off to college, and other young (and not so young) people to whom I serve as a surrogate, or at least a spiritual, father.
  • Parenting never stops. My mother has been trying to tell me this for years. She said, "Your little grow will grow up, but you will always be her dad. I have no question about that. She's been gone two weeks and I have already received three "send money" phone calls. I know that our relationship will change and grow, but she is not rid of me yet.
  • I now know how my parents felt (and feel). At various times during the last 30 years I thought my parents were crazy, weird, annoying and aggravating. Now I am starting to understand. They love me and want to be sure that I am alright. That's how I feel about my child. I just hope I can survive her thinking that I am crazy, weird, annoying and aggravating. One good thing is that I have always known Mom and Dad loved me. I hope my daughter always knows and remembers that.
  • Being a parent to others. I have always had a special relationship to young people. In any group there will be two or three kids who "get" me. They understand what I stand for and what I am trying to do with my life. For a few of these I have become a parent. To many others I feel very paternal. In fact, right now I am trying to be "Dad" to one young man in Africa. (He even calls me Dad.) I am finding joy and a release in this new kind of parenting.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Some Thoughts on Parenting

You likely know that I just sent my only child to college for the very first time. We are now 13 days without Molly in our house (but who's counting?). It has been a difficult transition- and not always for the reasons I anticipated. I expected to miss her physical presence in our house. I was ready for more quiet, less attitude and less drama. I was not prepared for telling the hostess at the restaurant that there would only be two for dinner. I was not prepared for getting up in the middle of the night and not finding her somewhere.

All of this change caused me to think about and evaluate parenting in general. The title of this entry implies that I have multiple thoughts on parenting. Right now I don't. I really only have one thought.

Parents have one goal in life. From the time a child is born we nurture, educate, train, feed and love them so that some day they will be independent. We make sacrifices. We forget about our own needs, our own desires, all for the sake of the needs of our children. And for the most part, we do this willingly.

For the past 18 years my life has been pretty much dominated by my daughter. I have attended school functions. I have bought prom dresses (three of them). There have been concerts, games and dates. There have been things that excited me, and some that I dreaded and regretted. Although I have worked, had hobbies and a marriage during this time, my daughter has taken a lot of time, energy and focus.

And all of that was leading to the day that we finally left her at her college for the first time. It was the day that we have been working toward for all these years. Our success was at hand. You see, the goal of the parent is to produce a productive, independent human being. We did it! We are successful. The time has come and gone. She is on her own.

And the final analysis for us is that parenting stinks. For 18 years we worked toward what turns out to be one of the saddest, worst days of our lives. Someone should have told us that. Be warned.

Parenting stinks!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Weekly Prayer Thought

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. 2 Thessalonians 3.1-2

A foundational aspect of the Christian faith is the call to humility. We are supposed to think of the needs of others before we think of ourselves (Philippians 2.4). We are supposed to love others and work for their betterment. We Christians are to build others up, even if it means we are diminished.

In America, we are taught just the opposite of that. We are supposed to take care of ourselves, no matter what happens to everyone else. You and I are encouraged to go for the gusto. Look out for number one, is the motto of many in America. Most Americans have settled on a kind of compromise. We try our best to be independent individualists. That is, we can solve our own problems and take care of ourselves. We maintain and cherish our privacy. We don't ask others for help. We can do it ourselves.

That is why the example of Paul is so troubling to us. He, of all biblical figures, seems completely capable of working himself out of a jam, and yet, he consistently asks for help. Here he asks others to be praying for him. This is not a sign of a lack of faith on Paul's part. Do not fall into that trap. Asking another for prayer is rather an example of humility and interdependence among the church, the family of God.

There are several locations in the New Testament where Paul asks for prayer (cf. Colossians 4.2-4; 2 Corinthians 1.11). He understands the importance of prayer and the significance of relying on others.

You and I are certainly not better than the Apostle Paul. We should be sharing our prayer needs with our friends and prayer partners. We should be soliciting the prayers of those who pray. God will do great things when we are able to become humble and offer our lives to Christ in this way.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I have sinned, Lord, by trying to carry all of my burdens by myself. Give me the grace, courage and commitment to share my prayer needs with others who will pray for me. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Road Trip/ Car Games #4

Here are some more ideas for games to play in the car on long trips. These are great for families, or any other group that is stuck in the same car/ van for hours at a time. Rules are simple and there are very few supplies needed. A pencil and a note pad should do you just fine.

The Truck Lines Game

ThereBold are a couple of variations on this game.
  1. Choose a couple of well known truck lines before beginning the game. You might choose JB Hunt, Schneider, Yellow, Roadway or Werner. Choose a time limit or a destination. Now the game can begin. At the end of the game the person who has spotted the most trucks from that line wins.
  2. The second variation is to find the most different truck lines. There are literally dozens of transportation and freight lines operating in the USA. The person who writes down the most different companies will win this game.
  3. A final variation is that each player will locate the most different types of trucks. Look for dump trucks, grain trucks, panel trucks, etc. Again, the one with the most at the end of the game wins.
The License Plate Game

This game is simple for anyone to play, but you will need to take special notes and be careful of your answers. Again, there are two variations.
  1. Use the letters and numbers and letters on license plates to spell out the entire alphabet from beginning to end. Find an A on a license plate. Then you can find a B and so on. You can not use the same license plate for more than one letter. And each license plate can only be used byBold one person.
  2. In this second variation you will be scoring points by finding special license plates. Gain points by the spotting the following plates.
  • Each state will get you 2 points. You can only get points for each state one time.
  • If you get all 48 of the contiguous states you will get a bonus of 100 points.
  • Spotting Alaska or Hawaii plates will get you 25 points each.
  • Any Canadian Providence is also worth 25.
  • Any other foreign country is worth 100 points.
  • Vanity plates are worth 10 points each.
Discussion Concussion

This game does not need to be limited to car time. It will be good for anyone, anytime. Humans do not spend enough time interacting with one another. We need to spend time intentioCheck Spellingnally talking. So, us some of the following questions to start conversation.
  • What is the most important thing in your life?
  • Is there something that you would give your life for? What is it?
  • Do you think that money makes life better or worse?
  • Give an example of a time when you were extremely happy.