Monday, May 29, 2006

Our teens are at a 4-day retreat with another youth group at a camp facility called HEB which is located in the hill country on the Frio River. I really miss being there with those kids. There is a 15 ft cliff that the kids like to jump from into the swimming area. When you stand at the edge for the first time it seems so much higher than it really is. Even after watching 10 people jump before you decide to try it still seems so much higher that first time. You stand there psyching yourself up knowing you'll be ok because everyone else who jumped was ok. But there is still this uncertainty in your mind. Your heart races and the adrenaline flows as you prepare to make that first jump.

I feel a lot like that today because I'm not at HEB with the kids because I'm heading to Abilene today to pack mom's things and move her to another town. To make a long story short, mom moved to Abilene in 1998 and has been there since. Now, due to circumstances beyond her control, mom's sister and I are having to move mom into her mother's old house about 30 minutes from where my aunt lives. I've been praying that this is the right decision. It's definitely a difficult one. It's one where we're not totally sure how this might turn out in the end, but then again I'm not sure any of us know how things will turn out in anything. So, pray for me as I spend the week helping mom begin a new stage in her journey, and mine for that matter.

I'll write more next week when I get back.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The school year is coming to an end for me today. I gave my only two finals yesterday and need to grade them today. Once I've done that and clean my classroom I'm officially done for the summer. But that doesn't mean I get a respite. I'm out of town from May 29-June 6 helping my mom move from one town to another and spending time with my family. I then have a busy summer youth program to run. Lots of trips and ministry projects are planned. I look forward to the summer, but it's going to be busy. So between spending much needed time with some of the teens I love and taking Julia swimming, the blogging will be sporadic.

I'm going to use much of the summer to read and listen to God, rather than write. It's time to be still and know...

Monday, May 22, 2006

Yesterday was Senior Sunday. What I love about this day is that our church family has the opportunity to be a part in a threshold moment in the life of a student. It's one of our more significant reminders that we are a family. My favorite part is sharing a video of the students and watching as the church family signs the concordance of each senior. Whether a students has been part of our family for one year or 18, each senior receives a concordance from the church family.

I'm not sure how long this tradition has been taking place, but I like it because the concordance is more of a symbol. It represents the challenge for those moving on to take seriously the call to follow Christ. It's a symbol of discipleship.

One thing I wish I had done, which I think I will do for future graduates is ask them to respond to two basic questions:
1) Name 2-3 people who in our church family who have influenced you to become more like Christ, and
2) What aspects of our church life have been most formative in your spiritual growth?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Lately I've been thinking a lot about my relationship with Scripture. As I've read Eat This Book I've developed a growing concern, for lack of a better word, between God's Word and my life. I've thought about all the reasons I've read my Bible. Here are just a few:
1. To earn stickers in Bible class (that was a few years ago)
2. To prepare for Bible Bowl
3. To participate in a Bible study
4. As part of a one-year reading project
5. To prove a point
6. To make decisions concerning issues that concerned me like homosexuality, women's role in the Church, instrumental music
7. To help me decide if certain actions were ok
8. To justify myself or refute someone else
9. To provide comfort in times of trouble
10. To prepare lessons and sermons
11. To write a paper for seminary
12. To pass a test
13. How to live better.

These are not the only reasons I've read Scripture. But as I consider all these reasons, maybe I've missed the point of Scripture over the years. In most cases mentioned above I come to these ancient words with an agenda -- mine. Against this backdrop, I am considering these words I recently read:

"Christians feed on Scriptures. Holy Scripture nurtures the holy community as food nurtures the human body. Chrsitians don't simply learn to study Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and Justice in Jesus' name, hands raised in adoration of the father, feet washing in the company of the son...

We do not come to God by guesswork: God reveals himself. These scriptural words reveal the Word that created heaven and earth; they reveal the Word that became flesh in Jesus for our salvation. God's word is written, handed down, and translated for us so that we can enter the plot. We hold these Bibles in our hands and read them so we can listen and respond to these creating and saving words and get in, firsthand, on the creating and saving."

Peterson's words remind me of the Mercy Me song, Word of God Speak

Word of God speak
Would you pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see your majesty
To be still and know
That you're in this place
Let me stay and rest in your holiness
Word of God speak

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

During these past few days I have known of two faithful Christians who have passed from this life to the next due to cancer in their bodies. Both were mothers and grandmothers. Both loved the Lord and their families. So, I thought of these families and the arrangements being made to say good bye.

While some call this a final moment, those of us who believe in the resurrected Christ know that this is only a transition into a glorious new future, one in which we are brand new, given new bodies and a new reality. This is the existence for which we were made. I also know we grieve no matter how expected a loss is. Yet we grieve and are comforted at the same time; for we are never alone in these moments. When we become swept up in God’s kingdom we become part of a community of faith, a family, in which we are brothers and sisters. We share our journeys with one another. Therefore, as you grieve, know that you have family who are right there with you.

So, I leave you with these words from a song that has taken on more meaning to me over the years. It's an expression of truth for those of us who belong to the family of God.

We believe that when the Lord
When He comes again
We’re going to a better place.

We believe in Christian brotherhood
We will make it understood
That it’s what we’re about.
I haven't had much time to blog lately. The school year is ending and a lot is happening. I'm spending most my free time with my girls. I thought I'd share one quote with you from Eat This Book: a conversation in the art of spiritual reading.

"Liturgy is the means that the church uses to keep baptized Christians in living touch with the entire living holy community as it participates formationally in Holy Scripture...

The task of liturgy is to order the life of the holy community following the text of Holy Scripture. It consists of two movements. First it gets us into the sanctuary, the place of adoration and attention, listening and receiving and believing before God. There is a lot involved, all the parts of our lives are ordered to all aspects of the revelation of God in Jesus.

Then it gets us out of the sanctuary into the world into places of obeying and loving, ordering our lives as living sacrifices in the world to the glory of God. There is a lot involved, all the parts of our lives out on the street participating in the work of salvation."

We can't be fully alive if Scripture, liturgy and community aren't integral to our lives.

Friday, May 12, 2006

How could anyone resist such a cute face? This is just one picture of Jenna Deana took the other day.

Deana is amazing while I'm often an insensitive clod. Last night she spent about an hour putting together a photo album of Jenna for Mother's Day for my mom. By the way, she did the same thing featuring Julia a few years ago. Deana even picked out the card. Today she's going to overnight it to mom. Who's Mother's Day idea was this you might ask? Well, it was hers. She's amazing!

This morning Julia woke up a little earlier than normal. She was lying on the couch as I was writing this entry. I turned around and asked her what she was doing to which her reply was, "I'm working on a script for my play I'm writing. It's really funny. I need a lot of babies attacking me."
On another note about Julia, she probably has read more books as a first grader than I did in all of my elementary years. She loves to read Nancy Drew books. She earned over 100 AR points this year and gets to go on an AR field trip.

Once again, another testimony of how amazing Deana is. Deana's influence on Julia is quite obvious. Thank the Lord for that. Happy Mother's Day a couple of days early to all you moms!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Last night Julia, Jenna and I met Deana's parents at Fuddruckers and then I took Julia to a GAP outlet to get a few clothes. On the way home, which was about a 40-minute drive, we were singing together in the suburban. At first, this seemed so typical, but then I began thinking about what we were singing and how excited Julia was bobbing her head and shouting at the top of her lungs the following words

And I'll become even more unidignified than this. Some may say it's foolishness, but I'll become even more undignified than this...

We talked a litle bit about instrumental and acapella worship. We talked about what the song meant, and then she continued to sing with Dave Crowder in the CD player (I'm not cool enough to have an mp3 player in my car):

la, la, la, la, hey! with the song.

Jenna even got into the action clapping her hands and saying "hey!" at the right time in the song. It's ok to let go and have fun worshiping God. We were pretty wired when we got home. What a great ride home!

Monday, May 08, 2006

When I met Deana she worked as a student journalist for the Optimist, our college newspaper. This meant that, unlike most students, she worked most nights, especially when she became managing editor. She would go to classes during the day and work many late nights putting together the paper. Consequently, if I wanted to spend time with her I would spend many late nights in the newsroom as she worked. I did what I had to in order to be with her all the time. We'd be up there some nights until 1 or 2 a.m. and then I'd have an 8 a.m. class the next morning. Some nights she'd come by my apartment at 1 a.m. on her way home just to say hi. We always wanted to be together.

I thought of those days as I read the following words this morning:

"Having found in many different books different methods of going to God, and diverse practices of the spiritual life, I thought this would serve rather to puzzle me than facilitate what I sought after, which was nothing but how to become wholly God's. This made me resolve to give the all for the all; so after having given myself wholly to God, that he might take away my sin, I renounced, for the love of him, everything that was not he, and I began to live as if there was none but he and I in the world." - Brother Lawrence

God bless us this week as we seek to give the all for the all.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

In Acts 23:11, we're told that the Lord appeared to Paul and said "Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have told the people about me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the good news in Rome." Of course, Paul was in prison awaiting trial in Jerusalem on some false accusations. I wonder if Paul had a vision for how he would get to Rome. I wonder if he envisioned the path his life would take. This simple Scripture has raised some questions for me as I look towards Sunday. How did the Lord appear to Paul? How did Paul know he was supposed to go to Rome? Did he expect to go immediately to Rome? Did he see this as his very next assignment from God? We learn in the next few verses that Paul takes a 2-year detour in Ceasarea. I wonder how this impacted Paul? Did Paul have doubts? Did he question God? It seems that God seldomly ever works as we plan.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Just in case you ever wonder if pets and owners look alike, check out winners from an I-look-like-my-dog contest.
I was baptized at the age of 9. I remember my best friend, Tod, wanting to be baptized and that got me thinking. I didn't want to be left out. I didn't want to miss out on anything. I began thinking about what baptism was and came to the conclusion that baptism would help me when I did something wrong. Using church lingo, I had been taught that baptism meant my sins were forgiven. I also thought it would be cool to drink juice from that little plastic cup and break off a tiny piece of that Mattzo cracker.

So, one Sunday morning I went forward during the invitation song. After worship our church family drove 20 miles to the Church of Christ in town that had a baptistry and Ken Saner baptized me. That night I had my first piece of little cracker and sip of juice. Until that moment the only times I ever had the juice and crackers was when it was my turn to empty the trays. I always felt so guilty taking a bite of the cracker when we did that. It felt like I was eating the consecrated bread.

I have spent these past 25 years growing in my understanding of that moment. I have spent the rest of my life living out the reality of that moment. With this mind, here are some words about baptism from Eugene Peterson's Living the Resurrection:

"Because we do not baptize ourselves - it is always something done to us by God in the community - the resurrection life begins and can only begin as previous to us, beyond and other than us, so that we can, for the first time, enter into and become our true God-defined selves - selves in relationship with resurrection friends. It is always done with the assent, participation, and affirmation of a company of faithful men and women who are likewise defined by holy baprism. It is at once naming, repentance, death, resurrection, and following Jesus.

In holy baptism, our lives are defined by resurrection. We know and are known by knowing and being known by the living Jesus Christ. This is where we begin. It's a beginning that invites reenactment every day of our lives. Remember your baptism, for we cannot do anything on our own in this business."