Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Hard Work of Life

I have a saying. I think it's original. "If it ain't hard, it probably ain't good." Think about those things in life that are good that come easy. They are few. Health is good, but eating healthy and exercising suck. Marriage is good, but more than half of all married Americans decide, some for good reasons, some for not so good reasons, that their marriage is too hard (I won't even touch on having a good marriage). Parenting is good, but I can't WAIT for my little princesses to go to bed every single night.

I was reminded of this the other day while I was reading Douglas Wilson's parenting book, Standing on the Promises. Here's what it said with regard to parenting that really struck me:

"In order to have a garden full of weeds, it is not necessary to do anything. One must just let it go. And in order to have a home full of grief, it is not necessary to do anything either. Just let it go."

I got to thinking about all that it takes to have a good garden. I am not a gardener precisely because gardening is something you have to work at, on some level, every single day. The little things that you do each day pay big dividends in the end...but they don’t feel like it at the time. If in the end you truly want vegetables, you have to do those seemingly unproductive things, even when the garden just looks like rows of dirt. Real gardeners know this. But, most amateur gardeners do one of two things. They either 1) sow the seed and hope for the best (and usually end up with something (known in theological terms as common grace), but certainly not what they could have had) or 2) lose interest because of all the work and let the garden go.

The garden of life is the same way. I'm realizing more and more that if I want, say for example, children with good habits, I've got to put forth the constant effort of training them in good habits, which ain't fun....Wait, that is step two even....Step one is, I have to put forth the constant effort of training myself in good habits so that I know how to train my children. These things won't just fall in my lap. I keep expecting them to fall in my lap. I have to work at them. I have to be diligent in them. Daily. There isn't time for rest or else my garden will be overcome with weeds. This is the curse of the fall. There are not just literal thorns that make cultivating a garden hard; there are thorns in my heart that make cultivating all that is good in life hard. There is a huge part of me that just doesn't want it bad enough to put forth the effort it takes.

In the end, I think this is the difference between a believer and a non-believer. In the garden of life there are two types of people. Those who decide it is too much work and let it go and then there are those who fight back the weeds. Every garden has weeds and not every vegetable in the garden will sprout, but if you want a garden at all, you better get out there and fight for it...daily...diligently...relentlessly.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Welcome To Our World

Welcome To Our World
Chris Rice

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You've been promised, we've been waiting
Welcome Holy Child

Hope that you don't mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long-awaited Holy Stranger
Please make Yourself at home

Bring Your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
Word now breaking Heaven's silence
Welcome to our world

Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born

So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect Son of God

Welcome to our world

Monday, November 24, 2008

When I Survey The Wonderous Cross

I've been in many different worship settings and pretty much appreciate all of them in one way or another. Last night I was singing to calm my screaming 16 month old who didn't want to go to bed. I chose to sing what I THINK is my favorite hymn/praise/worship song. Every time I make it to the last verse I choke up, wanting so desperately for it to be my truest testimony.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Singing that verse reminds me of the most powerful, sincere worship I've every experienced. Every single time we sung When I Survey The Wondrous Cross at my old church the congregation would just belt out the last verse of this song and I'll (hopefully) never forget the way that sounded--the organ would slow, allowing us to contemplate what we were about to sing and then........voices in sincere worship singing boisterously about a love that is indeed so amazing, so divine that if demands all of us. It gives me chills.

Which reminds me of another amazing experience. Let me give you the setting. Think Presbyterian Session meeting. But don't think too stereotypically. Yes these Elders did meet do discuss business and the direction of the church. Yes, they were business like when necessary. But they know the Word. Around that table were about 30 men who deeply, deeply love and know the Lord. Before every Session meeting the Elders had a time designated to praying for the sick and weary of the church. So, in walked a sick women, about 30. Doctors could not figure out what was wrong but she was literally withering away. So, the Elders began to listen to her story. Then the Teaching Elder (lead pastor) asked that someone read James 5 to explain why they were not only going to pray for this young women, but anoint her with oil. And he took out the oil...but before anyone could open their Bible a voice rose above the Elder who was known for memorizing scripture (like no one I've ever met) began to recite James 5 from memory. As these seemingly stuffy religious men prayed over, layed hands on, and anointed this suffering woman. I sat there stunned, mesmerized (God was there), not because they masterfully manipulated my emotions, but because they were passionately doing what they were supposed to be doing.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Nothing has changed.

I can't help but note that nothing has changed. Nothing is new under the sun. The same debate that rages over our election on Nov. 4th is the same debate that raged in the 1780s as we were writting our constitution. How BIG should the government be?

Men are evil by nature. So, if government is not big enough, who will protect men from other men. In the same right, men run governments so who will protect men from government?

Isn't that exactly what we are faced with in our two candidates? How big SHOULD government be?

My favorite American quote summarizes this tension:

"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."

James Madison

Which leads me to the realization that the Cure is not political. The Cure is a Person.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Similarities Between Abortion and Slavery

I've been gripped lately by the modern atrocity called abortion. I had these thoughts as I was driving home one day this week. I'm sure that someone else has already made these connections but I found them insightful.

Similarity #1: They aren't really human!
During the days of slavery in the United States (and still around the world today), slaves were thought of as something less than human. Most commonly they were considered property on the level of a cow or horse to be used for the financial benefit of their owner. This was the only way that someone could justify the practice. Similarly, abortion advocates do not consider babies human. Babies are just embryos and not fully human yet. Somehow, exiting a mother’s womb makes all the difference in the world in becoming a human...or does it?

Similarity #2: The majority of Americans are uncomfortable with the practice.
Even in the South there are estimates that less than 25% of whites owned 1 slave. That means that 75% of whites owned n0 slaves. Were they still for slavery even though they themselves didn’t own a slave? Most of them probably, many for reasons listed in similarity #3. Views were different in the North and West. The nation as a whole had long grown weary of the practice and elected Abraham Lincoln, an abolitionist, in 1860. Today, more Americans oppose the practice of abortion than support it, yet it continues. It continues because it is so woven into our psyche that 1) babies are less than human and 2) there is nothing the average American can do about it...sounds like America between 1840 & 1861.

Similarity #3: The practice is promoted on the backs of the poor.
To be Southern in the pre-Civil War South pretty much meant you were poor. The industrial North had all of the money, almost literally. The abuses of the wealthy North on the poor South are well documented. Look it up. The only hope, as Southerners saw it was through a particular political party that they thought gave them a "voice" in government. It just so happened that this political party was also pro-slavery. That didn't matter to most Southerners, because that was the only party that looked after Southern interests. How else would they feed their families? Without their protection, the South would suffer even greater at the hands of wealthy Northerners. Sound familiar? Today, poor Americans are disproportionately more likely to have an abortion and more likely to vote for the political party that is disproportionately pro-abortion (or pro-choice as they say it). After all, that is the only party that gives them a "voice". Without them, they would be overrun. They NEED that party's protection.

Similarity #4: The U.S. Supreme Court
Yes, in the famous Dred Scott case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that slaves are indeed property and it is a constitutional right to own property, which is why the constitution had to be amended (13, 14, & 15) before slavery could end. Similarly, Row vs. Wade ruled that abortion is constitutional.

Similarity #5: The Democratic Party
Enough said.

I leave you with this:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Prosperity Gospel

If you haven't seen this already, you should. The prosperity gospel creeps into my thinking on a daily is so woven into American Christianity (and third-world from my missions experience). Forgive us Father.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Get Smart

My wife and I finally got smart and for the first time hired a babysitter to watch our girls and put them to bed for the night. The key being put them to bed. Having the babysitter put the kids to bed means that mommy and daddy get to stay out past 7pm.

For dinner, we sat at a bar because the wait for a table would have meant that we missed our movie. We enjoyed a nice meal (I had a beer) and just talked with the warm breeze from the open windows in our face.

After dinner we went to see Get Smart. It was kinda cool to sit there, together, and laugh at the same stupid jokes. No, it wasn't a "great" movie, just a fun one. I recommend it. It had a little something for everyone. A little romance and some things blowing up. Although, sorry ladies, the "hunk" in the movie is not so much a hunk but the babe in the movie was indeed a babe.

After the movie we walked into a house (after 10pm) that was not only quiet but responsibility free. We paid the babysitter and soaked up the moment.

Get Smart= 3 stars
Using a babysitter = 5 stars

Monday, May 19, 2008

Thoughts on life of William Wilberforce

More believers need to know about the life of William Wilberforce! I've had the privilege of getting to know him better this past week in preparation for teaching my students about him.

In case you don't know, Wilberforce was an openly passionate believer in Jesus who dedicated his life to the ending the slave trade. Of the European powers involved in the slave trade, England was the first to abolish it, largely due to Wilberforce. His mentor, John Newton, is the writer of the great Hymn, Amazing Grace. The abolition of slavery in Britain led to its demise in America as well.

Here is a quote from Wilberforce:
"God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the Slave Trade and the Reformation of Manners [moral values]"

This quote strikes me deeply. I love it because it strikes a balance that the modern Church is struggling to find in our current political climate. I think the Church can learn something from the life of Wilberforce. His quote above does not fall neatly into a liberal/conservative or democrat/republican box.

On the one hand, Wilberforce fought great social injustices (not just slavery) and understood the role that government needed to play in ensuring that the strong (rich) don't oppress the weak (poor). If it were left to the marketplace of the day in Great Britain, practices such as slavery may never have ended.

On the other hand, Wilberforce is also fighting the moral relativism of his day. Everything, though it may feel good, is NOT ok. There are moral traits that should be expected (key word- not required) of citizens for the longevity and health of a society. There ARE certain values and morals that are superior to others (as in families with a mom and dad raising their children).

As modern day Christians, it's as if we HAVE to choose between these two ideas. On the one hand, I hate the pornification of our society that is championed by the left/Democrats. On the other hand, I hate the notion championed by the right/Republicans that the "marketplace", not (big) government, should settle the issues of our day.

Lord in heaven, give your Church clarity like that of Wilberforce!

Monday, May 12, 2008

The oldest birthday boy at Chuck E Cheese's

Yes, today is my birthday. I was wracking my brain over where we should eat. "Where can we eat that will be most relaxing?" And then the light went off.... Chuck E Cheese's... No, seriously, think about it. Pizza. Video Games. Lily distracted by video screens while Kerry and I eat. Jade mesmerized by lights while we talk about life (and a new job opportunity). This time, I wouldn't be alone. (I take the girls there sometimes on evenings when Kerry is working...and usually leave sweaty and exhausted.) Maybe, just maybe, I could go off ON MY OWN for a few minutes to play those violent shoot 'em up games that I can never play with Lily! Maybe I could drive the race car without a 3 year old between my legs! The idea sounded better and better the more I thought about it.... 2 happy children=2 relaxed parents.

Go ahead, laugh all you want, but it was a great place to have my birthday party. I might have been the oldest birthday boy in Chuck E Cheese history but we may just break that record next year...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I toed you!

I was in junior high the first time it happened. My cousin Michelle was chasing me with a water gun through the house when I raced through the bathroom door and crushed my left ring (?) and pinkie toes on the doorway. The pain still haunts me today. My ring toe has not been perfectly straight since. The injury left the top of my foot black and blue for weeks. Fortunately it was summer time so I was able to walk around with only a sock on my left foot for a few weeks. These were the days when you only went to the doctor for serious injuries or illnesses...or at-least that's how it was in my family. I have no doubt even to this day that something was broken but the line I got from my parents was "There's nothing they can do for a toe" and so on I went with my own treatment and NO sympathy from friends or family.

Saturday morning was gorgeous in Texas. We were getting ready for a productive day...there were even discussions about going to Home Depot for some Bermuda grass plugs. My 3 year old daughter had crawled under the piano bench and I looked at her like I was going to race in the other room to I raced into the kitchen...changed my mind at the last minute to take a right and circle around through the dining room so that I could sneak behind her...and then, it happened. As soon as I hit my toe on the kitchen chair, I knew I had stubbed it pretty good so I stopped to look...but I was in for a big surprise. You know, how when you hurt yourself you go through that initial time of wondering if it, whatever you hurt, is broken. Well, there was no doubt that my left toe was broken when I looked down and discovered it completely bent to the if it wasn't really even part of my foot anymore. My toe nail was bleeding too. Amazingly it really didn't hurt that bad but something was clearly I called for Kerry and told her that we need to go to the toe was broken...all the while my 3 year old asking to see my broken toe..."do you need a new one?"...Kerry came down the stairs asking what happened and how it happened....about that time the only thing I could think about was the fact that my toe would have to be which point I started feeling faint....So there I was feeling sick, laying on our living room floor, impatiently waiting for my wife to get the kids ready for a trip to the no one was taking my injury seriously once again... I'm hurt; we're supposed to leave right away! By this time it was 8:15. We drove around to several places but made our way back to the original office because it was the first to open--at 9am. Why wasn't the whole world stopping for my injury? We discussed what to do with the 45 minutes. I didn't want to go home. My wife didn't want to sit in the parking lot...our youngest was due for her first nap at 9am...there was no way they were going inside the clinic where sick people linger... So, there I was, 30 minutes before the office opened, sitting outside on the sidewalk waiting for it to open...feeling sorry for myself....NO sympathy once again!

Several other patients pulled up about 15 minutes early. Boy was I glad to be by the door to be the first patient seen. As soon as the nurse sees my toe she'll rush me straight back. At 9am, the other patients started heading to the door so I stood up and hobbled my way to be the first in line. Seeing my injury you would think that someone would hold the door for, I almost got run was as if they were disappointed that I might make their wait lady even asked after I checked in if the doctor would be able to see her earlier than her 9:30 appointment because her son (who didn't even appear sick-had on a baseball uniform) had a birthday party to go to...the nurse said sure... I thought great, they'll get to ME really quick then! Nope, they called the boy and his mom back right away...and then the other lady that came in after me...and then the other man that came after her...and on...and on...and on. I finally got up and was vocal about the fact that though I didn't register on the Internet (which they had apparently done), I was SITTING OUTSIDE 30 minutes before you opened and wasn't aware of the Internet registration possibility...Meanwhile people in the waiting room who at most had minor colds and had registered on line looked at my foot in disgust just before they being called back...but did any of them offer for me to take their spot, NO...did the office rearrange things to let the guy in pain go before the dolled up sick people talking about the HGTV show on the wide screen TV, another BIG NO... By this time I'm feeling like I did in Junior High...NO guy even came in for stitches, his wife all hysterical as if he needed immediate help...but it wasn't bleeding anymore and didn't look all that bad...he just had a little tissue paper over it for goodness my mind I clearly had the worst injury...

So, I was finally called back and the care was great. It turned out that my toe was dislocated in two places and fractured enough that the doctor thinks I will need a pin. Finally, some confirmation!! Finally, some sympathy!! He re-set my toe, which totally sucked and injected me with some pain medicine. The office only had a women's large orthopedic shoe and pink there I was with my toes wrapped in pink gauze and hanging off the shoe...slowly feeling the effects of the drugs...waiting on the sidewalk again for my wife to pick me up...

My wife has been great...even drove downtown for a men's large orthopedic shoe and white gauze...although I'm a little worried that I won't be able to milk this for much long as I "deserve"...

The moral of the story?! As my friend Mike texted me after I texted him in the doctors office seeking some sympathy... "I toed you not to run in the house!" No sympathy!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


That is what my wife will be screaming in about 12 hours. It'll likely be a late night of frantic packing for her (hopefully not for me too, but something tells me I won't get much sleep tonight) as she prepares to head out for 4 days on her long awaited girls weekend with 4 friends from high school, junior high even.

I will have the kids, but there's still a sense of freedom that I will get to enjoy since my parents are in town for 2 of the 4 days...but not to the extent she will I got to thinking about what I would do if I had 4 days on my own. One of my buddies at school is enjoying bachelorhood while his wife is out of town for two weeks. He doesn't have kids so another lunch buddy and I were living vicariously through him and giving him a list of things he must do on our behalf.

Here's my list:
-I would eat whatever I wanted. It wouldn't have to "go together" or vary in color in order to get all of the essential vitamins. I would just eat all of my favorites at the same and and ice and french and Funyuns...
-I would eat in front of the t.v. You lose this privilege with kids to avoid the stains they would make on the couch.
-I would dedicate one entire day to trilogies like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, God Father (that I have actually never seen), etc. Maybe a little Tombstone and Braveheart to finish it off. ...all viewed in the comfort of my own pjs...
-I would go to bed late and sleep late and nap on the couch between movies.
-I would blare music and sing and dance like there was no tomorrow!
-After a day or two of being alone, I would invite my friends over for more pizza and cards until about 12 when this old man needs to go to bed. We would just have to get an early start.
-I would go camping with my friends and stay up late talking politics and theology and women...things my girls hate for me to talk about... We would have all the world's problems solved by sun-up.
-I would go mountain biking...

And then after about 4 days, I would be begging for my girls back!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Obama and Rev. Wright

I've been thinking a lot about the Presidential campaign. Here is my perspective on Obama and Rev. Wright.

My thoughts center around what I consider to be the crux of Obama's speech regarding the controversy over Rev. Wright. The crux of his speech didn't occur in my opinion when Obama rejected Rev. Wright's view of America (because there were many qualifiers to that rejection throughout the speech), rather when Obama clarified his stance by stating (basically) that he cannot reject the man Rev. Wright just like he cannot reject his white grandmother who locked her doors when African American males came near (I paraphrase).

I know where Obama was going with that comparison but I don't think it's convincing enough. After all, in my opinion, any elderly women who locks her doors when she senses danger is nothing but smart. There is however a much better analogy that Obama could have drawn that would have closed the deal for me (and possibly others) better than a comparison of his grandmother and Mr. Wright. In fact, that comparison was actually a little like comparing apples to oranges. The better analogy to draw is the fact that many Southerners are against slavery now, but won't reject their ancestors because they had slaves. They might reject slavery, but not their ancestors as a whole. I have ancestors who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. I do not reject their service. I know enough to know that many people fought in the Civil War for many different reasons. Robert E. Lee was after all against slavery and secession yet still led the Army of Northern Virginia. I won't get too specific, but I have people in my life of all races whom I love dearly yet I know they are racist. I have heard them making what some would consider racist comments, but I, like Obama will not reject them. I won't reject them because they are for the most part wonderful people who have loved me and inspired me with other characteristics. I reject their racism, openly, but not the whole person. Let's not forget about people like Martin Luther whose entire life and ministry should not be vilified because of anti-Semitic statements he made late in life. Those statements should be rejected, but not the man. No way. He's done too much good for the world. Who among us isn't flawed in some way?

In the end, after a little introspection, I agree with Obama's stance. If Obama feels that Rev. Wright, like all of us is flawed, but on the whole a good man, then I have no problem with Obama standing by the man.

Of course, evil racists like Hitler don't apply to this rationale because they are by definition evil to the core with no good in them.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Visiting Churches

We've been visiting churches in our (sort of new) community recently. Some recent reading about contextualization on other blogs got me thinking further about our experiences. One particular church has wonderful theology. The people are wonderful and they faithfully preach the gospel. The problem I have with the church is that the worship service is very "traditional" as in robes, hymns, psalter, kids in service, etc. It's too small a church for me to consider it high worship, although it technically is. Worst of all for us is that the service is 1 hr 45 minutes long. I can't pay attention that long, much less my 3 year old. When I'm in the worship service, I feel like (based on my background) that I'm in a foreign they are trying to take me back to old Europe when I live in a suburb of Dallas, Texas in 2008. I know all the theological reasons for why they make the choice in worship that they make. I know that they sincerely don't want to "water down" the wonder of the gospel and worship of Christ by turning it into a performance. I CAN appreciate that but every time I visit I can't help but feel like they don't care about me or the culture that I/we live in...not unlike some people from other countries might feel when someone brings American traditions to their country. In light of the need for contextualization (making the gospel relevant), I can't help but be concerned when a church ignores the culture of the community around them. They just seem so confined by unnecessary rules. Could a new believer survive in that environment? How many more people could they reach with the beautiful news if they made the service more relevant (by that I don't mean seeker sensitive)? We may end up at this church because of the many other positive aspects...but it'll be a hill to climb. Where am I wrong?

A good article on contextualization from the authority on the subject, Tim Keller, can be found by clicking here.

Monday, March 31, 2008

There IS a difference (western vs. southern)

The great state of Texas is a big place. Its cultures are as varied as its landscape (after all, landscape and geography are key factors in developing culture). You probably haven't put much thought into it but there is a difference between western culture and southern culture. Texas has both. One of my students said in passing that I was a cowboy the other day. I corrected him saying that I'm not a cowboy---I'm more southern than western and cowboys are western. Most might think that anyone who wears boots and jeans is a cowboy. Not true. Both might wear boots, but those boots have important difference (see below). Historically there is a big difference between the West and the South. The South was primarily composed of farmers while the West more composed of ranchers. The South is more influenced by Scottish and Irish styles and the West has a more Native American and Mexican influence. The climate in the West and the South calls for an all together different clothing. Just imagine the lush soil and towering pines of the South compared with the surprisingly beautiful desserts of the West. Think of it this way.

Western attire:
Shoe: Cowboy boots (in their truest form that you can slide right into stirrups)
Hat: Cowboy hats
Shirt: Western shirts (heavy cotton, button down, typically brighter colors)
Jeans: Wranglers (period)

Southern attire.
Shoe: Work boots (could have a cowboy influence, but the soles are better for keeping your footing)
Hat: Baseball cap
Shirt: T-shirt (or really any style shirt, esp. flannel, more earthy colors)
Jeans: Levi's

Keep your eyes open and I'll bet you'll start to see the difference yourself.

We have plenty of Western stores. We need more stores dedicated to Southern style.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Giving it a try.

Today I give blogging a try. This blog will not be anything profound. My goal with this blog is to simply put down my random thoughts and observations about the world. I think a lot about life and the world around me but most people really don't want to hear about it. Consider this blog my friend on the front porch of life who will sit (on a swing of course) and listen to whatever I have on my mind. Maybe a random observation about our American culture. Maybe an unusual political point. Maybe a deep religious stirring. Maybe a philosophical conundrum. Maybe a simple review of the latest movie.

I love history and maybe some day (long after I'm gone) one of my posts will help a historian with his quest to understand life in the 2000s....even if it's just 1 perspective out of 6.7 billion.