Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Check Out My Latest Article!

I'm going to be a little giddy and self-promotional for a second (Hey, let's face it... why else would anyone have a blog?). For years I've wanted to write and contribute to something worthwhile. Well, I finally have my chance, and my new article that I wrote for the Small Group Exchange is up! You can read it here.

The Small Group Exchange is a resource for small group leaders all over the world. It's an off-shoot of Blue Fish TV, who produces great video resources for churches and small groups. I'm excited to be a contributor, and blessed to work for such a great group of people!

Pretty exciting stuff for a small church pastor in a funny little Texas town! This blog has helped me a ton with writing, and I probably would have never even tried to write for anything else if I hadn't started this thing on a whim. If you're out there reading, thanks a bunch for the support!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Our Lord in the Attic

I'll never forget the day that my wife, Mother, sister and I went on an expedition in Amsterdam to find an off-the-beaten-path tourist attraction known as "Our Lord in the Attic." The only remaining "clandestine church" in Amsterdam, "Our Lord in The Attic" is a typical canal house designated by its narrow rooms and multi-floor design. The attic, however, displays an ornate and lovely cathedral. The Catholics, banned from worship in Amsterdam after the Reformation, met secretly in attic cathedrals. Witnessing this truly unexpected marvel of architecture and beauty was one of the highlights of our trip to Amsterdam.

It was the walk through Amsterdam's infamous red light district, off of which "Our Lord in the Attic" sits, that made this trip singularly unique. I mean it's not often that you have the chance to walk down a street flanked with hash houses and brothels with the three most sainted women in your life. Filling the uncomfortable role of having to distract your Mother from noticing hardcore sex shops is not what typical sonship requires. Polite hash refusals are not what you expect to hear from your wife. Witnessing these naive women marvel as they stood before a brothel that boasted window shopping for prostitutes was something I would've never imagined. It was the most surreal moment of my life.

Like a divorcee trying to avoid her ex, I embarassingly shuffled my "girls" through all the debauchery as quickly as I could. We finally made it to the other side, and anxiously entered the museum. Still reeling from the barrage of images, we walked ourselves through each narrow room and up each steep stairway. It was a nice place, but a bit boring and uninspiring. By the time we reached the third floor I was ready to move on to a real exhibit, like the Anne Frank House or the Van Gogh Museum. Why were we waisting our time touring this boring little place? And to think all the junk we had to pass just to get there!

Our steepest climb came as we worked our way to the fourth floor, the attic. The stairs seemed to go straight up to the ceiling. At the apex, we entered a room so surprising and magnificent that it almost made me forget all that had come before. The attic revealed a miniature cathedral the likes of which I had never seen. The ornate carvings, marble columns and intricate paintings that filled this room were spectacular. I was immediately moved by the holiness of this place. To think that persecuted people sought refuge in this little slice of heaven was sobering and moving.

We stayed for a while, soaking in the complete otherness of this magical monument. We didn't talk much. Words would have only cluttered such a pristine moment. Finally we whispered our goodbyes and navigated the narrow, stair lined path to the outside world. I felt like I was dreaming.

Back on the street I thought of the two worlds I'd just experienced. One full of carnality and hedonism and the other so serene and holy. I was saddened by the fact that these two worlds existed in such close proximity to each other, but never overlapped. The church, though no longer facing the threat of persecution by reformers, still met in secret, fleeing a wholly different kind of threat. Perhaps the worst place for our Lord to be during times of religious freedom is in the attic.

Many churches could probably change their street address to "attic." Instead of proclaiming "our Lord in the open", or "our Lord in the neighborhood", or "our Lord on the street", most churches keep "our Lord in the sanctuary", or "our Lord in the fellowship hall", or "our Lord in the prayer room". Thankfully God didn't take this approach. Instead, he sent our Lord to our world so that our soul might find freedom. Our Lord can't afford to be in the attic any longer. He was never intended to be there in the first place.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Buy This Book

My friend, Mike Foster, wrote a book, and it is now available for purchase. I haven't read it yet, so I'm not sure if it's good, but I know that Mike is very cool and creative, and the book is probably those things as well. Way to go Mike! You inspire me.

Go buy Mike's book. You can do it here.

Statistically Speaking

So, as I mentioned in the previous post, we're having our fifth child, and it is a boy. We're certainly excited about this surprising turn of events (this was not planned, and the little guy fought through a lot of barriers to get here!), but we're also a bit frightened. Scientists estimate that, in families with one autistic child, the risk of having a second child with the disorder is approximately five percent, or one in 20, which is greater than the risk for the general population. There's also a much greater chance of Autism in male children as opposed to female.

These kinds of statistics can make you crazy. The thought that something might be wrong with your kid is already the ambient noise in your mind, but any slight rise in the probabilities brings this background thought to the forefront. Five percent's not a lot, but it's enough to make you lose sleep. You lose sleep because you're not real sure you can handle another one. You're pretty sure you can't handle the one you already have.

Pretty amazing how a 5% chance there might be a problem virtually erases the 95% chance everything will be fine! If you told me I had a 95% chance of winning the lottery, I'd run - not walk - to the local Quickie-Mart to buy a ticket. Shoot, I bet I don't have a 95% chance of making it to work in one piece, but I still make the three right turns that get me there every morning (right out of my driveway, right on Northwood, right on Beaton).

Point is, you can't live life statistically. If you did, you'd probably never drive a car, get married or eat any of the various foods that will, statistically speaking, give you some terrible disease. The only statistic, in the end, that really matters is that God is 100% in control. Doesn't really make it easier to sleep at night, but it'll do for now. The longer I live the more I have to cling to this life-giving statistic. It helps me make it through about 85% of the time!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tigers Beat Tigers!!

What a great game between LSU and Auburn! LSU looked like they were in BIG trouble in the first half, but the coaches pulled out all the stops and THE Tigers took home the victory! Jarrett Lee, LSU redshirt freshman QB, pulled himself together after an early interception, and showed great poise and impressive arm strength in leading LSU to the comeback victory. And watch out for Charles Scott! The guy has rushed for 100+ yards in every game this year, and he looks like the best LSU back I've seen in a while.

#6 LSU - 26 #10 Auburn - 21

Friday, September 19, 2008

Normal Surprise

I've been thinking a lot lately about surprise. Seems these days that new and unexpected things happen too often for the term to fit. When surprise becomes the norm, perhaps the norm becomes the surprise. For instance, I was more surprised by the fact that I got to enjoy a relaxing day of football watching and general laziness last Saturday than I was when my son developed a finger infection that looked like what I would think leprosy might look like. Saturdays like the one I described used to be the norm. Grotesque finger infections used to be surprising.

This ironic twist in the way I view surprise is not unique to me. We process change at such a phenominal pace that surprise is more defined by simplicity than complexity. We are surprised when things are quiet in our audio barrage. We are surprised when the pace of life is manageable rather than overwhelming. We are shocked by the regular and at home with the fantastic.

We found out the other day that our fifth child will be a boy. When we tell people about it they are surprised. They're not surprised by the fact that we're having a boy; they're surprised that we're having a fifth child. They look at us like we've grown a third eye. They say things like "You do know what causes that, don't you?" Uhm, yeah, we do know what causes "that" (although we're somewhat surprised when time permits such activity).

Isn't it funny that we've come to a place in society where sexual intimacy between husband and wife that results in conception and child birth is surprising? Isn't that the natural outpouring of this sort of union? So we've come to a place where what is natural and common sense is surprising. Interesting, don't you think?

All of this leads me to this thought: How does God surprise us at this particular place in time? How do we (the church) surprise others? God used surprise throughout Scripture. Abraham faced the surprising (and terrifying) murder of his own child. David was the kind of surprise pick for King that would have made the Sarah Palin VP nomination look humdrum. Paul was shocked full circle on the road to Damascus. Jesus' surprise birth, surprise death and surprise resurrection were, well, surprising. So what is God up to now?

Perhaps He's standing behind the tree you're about to walk up on with a noise maker and a bag of confetti, just waiting to jump out and yell "Surprise!!" Kind of ridiculous, right? Of course He's not behind a tree with confetti, but He might be in the next cubicle with the guy who's marriage is falling apart because of a porn addiction. He might be with your daughter's teacher who's secretly struggling with insecurity because of her experience as an abused child. He might be in the coffee shop with the college kid who's so unsure of his future that he's thinking of ending his own life. After all, it's not surprising that people are dealing with painful lives. What's most surprising is that God's people aren't there for them. Not sure He'd have gone through such trouble surprising us if He'd have known how unsurprising we'd be.

Where can we look today to be surprised by God? What can we do today to be God's surprise?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Palin Breaks the Mold and Confounds Both Sides... and I love it!!


The world has gone insane (Not that this is news to any of you). Since Sarah Palin announced her intention to become Vice President of the United States, craziness has ensued. Hard core liberal women have suddenly decided that women can't do everything they dream of doing, and are best suited at home with their kids, and hard core conservatives have suddenly decided that a whole new world of professionalism exists for women, even those with 5 children. Seriously, what's the world coming to?

My good friend (and mother of 3), Tempi, sent me this article discussing the pros and cons of Sarah Palin's VP aspirations. Personally, I like the lady. If she and her husband think they can handle it, it's really nobody else's business to tell them otherwise. Time will tell if liberals are ready to treat a strong, independent, professional, tough-minded woman, who - oh, by the way - has five kids and a Christian value system the same way as they would any other woman running around Washington in a pants suit. Time will also tell if conservatives are ready to say that women with 5 kids should leave the traditional role of house wife behind. Both ideologies are having a tough time being consistent with this one, and that makes the world go crazy.

Meanwhile, I am sitting here rubbing my hands together with a twisted grin on my face. I love it when people actually have to think through things for a change instead of simply buying in to what "liberals" or "conservatives" have to say. It's extremely entertaining for me to see so many contradictions on both sides. I love it when folks like Sarah Palin come along and break all the stereotypes. It's good for America.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Pit Bull Palin Wows the Political World

Before the proverbial ink was dry on my last post about Barak Obama, Sarah Palin storms to the stage of the Republican National Convention and delivers a whale of a speech. In the most intense and nerve wracking setting possible, under the scrutiny of the media and the watchful eye of many unconvinced Americans, Palin stood with all the poise of an unflappable veteran and ripped off the speech of her life. In so doing, she may have built a dam high enough to impede the progress of the Obama tidal wave.

Like a sports team who grasps victory from the jaws of defeat, the Republican ticket - though not quite achieving victory - has certainly gained a tremendous amount of momentum. Sarah Palin has come pretty darn close to matching Barak Obama's star power, but she didn't do it by becoming a media darling. Instead, she pole vaulted over an impossible bar and put her party back in the fight. The next few months are going to be very interesting.

I found two things about Palin's speech extremely refreshing:
  • Mrs. Palin spoke very genuinely to the families of Special Needs children. I can't tell you how much it means to my wife and I to have an ally of this stature on our Special Needs journey. Her words to Special Needs families were like honey. She, perhaps more than any other candidate that I can remember, knows what its like to serve the neediest of all people. I find that extremely compelling.

  • It was great, for once, to see a female stand on stage in something other than a pants suit. Finally a woman in the presidential conversation who actually looks like a female. I don't think anyone can doubt her toughness... She's a pit bull with lipstick! But she's still feminine. I have no problem with a strong woman, but I do have a problem with women who think that looking like a man makes one strong. Palin nailed this one, and she looked the part.